These were the moments the Vikings' vaunted pass rush expected to shine.
Consecutive run stops had the Lions at third-and-7. Every Vikings defender, as well as Mike Zimmer on the sideline, expected a throw. They crowded the line of scrimmage with linebackers Anthony Barr and Emmanuel Lamur, seeing spot duty in some passing situations, standing in the gaps next to Lions center Travis Swanson. Defensive ends were split as wide as they could.
Then Theo Riddick darted past everybody for a 42-yard gain, setting up a Lions field goal on the opening drive of an overtime loss.
"They make good calls, too," Zimmer said.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford won this battle of wits against a Vikings defense that prides itself on confusing opponents. With nine seconds left on the play clock, Stafford hurried up to the line with Riddick following close behind so he could hear against a loud first-quarter crowd.
The ensuing check into a trap run gashed the Vikings. It was the second time in two games an opponent has broken their run defense with a huge gain on the opening drive after Jordan Howard's 69-yard run in Chicago. This time, they didn't see it coming.
Let's start from the beginning.
At their own 28-yard line, the Lions lined up four wide with Riddick the lone back in a shotgun formation. The situation, Detroit's look and its own tendencies screamed pass. The Lions entered Sunday averaging just 21.8 rushing attempts per game, third-fewest in the league. So the Vikings looked to attack Stafford with an interior stunt that included Lamur (59) setting a pick for defensive tackle Tom Johnson (92) to loop around and into the quarterback's face.
As the play clock ticked, Lamur couldn't hear Stafford's check at the line over an indoor crowd of more than 66,000 people. The Vikings pressed on with their plan.
"It was pretty loud. We couldn't hear anything, honestly," Lamur said. "That's what we were trying to hear, what check [Stafford] made. The stadium was rocking, there were certain things we couldn't even hear most of the time."
The Lions used a trap run that called for right guard Larry Warford to pull left and kick out Lamur, who essentially set up the block for him since Lamur first stepped toward the left guard on his stunt assignment. Swanson, the center, easily walls off Barr (55), who appeared to be running a similar twist with Brian Robison on the opposite side.
"They knew we were in a split look," Lamur said. "It was one of those deals where we're like 'wow, gosh, that was a good play.' They made a check and they just executed – it happens. It's something we're going to remember. Now we know."
Johnson, looping toward the open lane on his pass rush, dives and misses at Riddick, who then sets up safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo with an inside cut and beats them to the outside. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn chased Riddick down from the opposite sideline. On the outside, cornerback Terence Newmanplays the pass and covers Golden Tate before recognizing run.
The Lions averaged just 2.29 yards on their other 24 runs.
"Had a chance to tackle him, but we missed a tackle," Zimmer said. "The worst part about the whole thing wasn't necessarily the trap, but we didn't cup the ball with the back end, and so it ended up getting out to the side and then up around the corner."