The Vikings did not clinch a playoff berth with Sunday’s 27-9 win in Detroit, setting up a playofflike atmosphere for next week’s season finale against the NFC North-champion Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Win and in,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s how it is. I’m O.K. with that.”
As Vikings players and coaches flooded the locker room after the game at Ford Field, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles engineered a game-winning drive against the Texans to prevent the Vikings from clinching an NFC wild-card spot. Tight end Kyle Rudolph was among the many players trying to find the Eagles score immediately after the Vikings win.
“I stopped at the little club there in the tunnel on the way up just to check and see what was going on,” said Rudolph, who had a career-high 122 receiving yards against the Lions. “Bottom line is we have to go get a win next week. We don’t want to leave it up to anyone else.”
A Vikings win against the Bears, whom they’ve beaten six consecutive years at home, is the surest path to the postseason.
“Now it’s one game, we have to go get a win,” Rudolph said. “I’m really looking forward to that environment, being back at U.S. Bank Stadium because it’s going to be like a playoff game.”
Hill steps in
Rookie cornerback Holton Hill again stepped in to help the Vikings secondary. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for just 15 yards after halftime, when Hill took over the right cornerback spot full-time for Xavier Rhodes. Stafford, who has dealt with a back injury, was eventually replaced by Matt Cassel.
Rhodes re-entered the game in the fourth quarter but was shaken up chasing a Stafford deep ball to receiver Kenny Golladay. Zimmer downplayed any concern about Rhodes’ injury.
“I’m sure he’s going to be O.K.,” Zimmer said of Rhodes. “That’s pretty much Xavier. He’s going to be all right.”
Since beating the Packers a month ago, quarterback Kirk Cousins and company have hit a slump on third downs. They’ve converted just 14 of 48 attempts [29 percent] in the past four games, including 4 of 13 tries against the Lions on Sunday.
That included Cousins’ 40-yard pass to receiver Adam Thielen, who found himself wide open from a busted Lions coverage to move the chains on a third-and-17 play. Two plays later, Cousins threw the 8-yard touchdown to receiver Stefon Diggs.
“To hit that and not only hit that, but now we’re down in scoring territory and we get a touchdown to make it 9-7 only a couple plays after that,” Cousins said. “It’s a huge deal. It had a huge impact on the game.”
Sherels, Ham injured
Rookie receivers Brandon Zylstra and Chad Beebe filled in at punt returner after Marcus Sherels was knocked out of the game due to a foot injury suffered in the first quarter. Zylstra was drilled on his first attempt, which drew a flag on the Lions for kick catch interference.
Zylstra had one punt return for eight yards. Beebe had a fair catch.
Fullback C.J. Ham also left the game due to an elbow injury sustained in the third quarter. The Lions lost guard Frank Ragnow and cornerback DeShawn Shead to injuries.
Holmes over Bower
Rookie defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes was active for the first game since Nov. 4 against the Lions. It was Holmes’ fifth career game. Noteworthy was Holmes getting the nod over second-year defensive end Tashawn Bower, who has been inactive for seven of the last eight games.