Dominant defense leads Lions to 14-7 victory over Vikings
Published 5:00 pm Sunday, October 1, 2017
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Zettel led a ferocious performance by Detroit’s defense with two sacks, four hurries and a fumble recovery, as the Lions forced three turnovers while holding Minnesota scoreless in the second half on the way to a 14-7 victory over the Vikings on Sunday afternoon.
The Lions turned two fumbles lost by the Vikings in the third quarter into 11 points, taking the lead on Ameer Abdullah’s 1-yard touchdown run five plays after rookie Dalvin Cook fumbled at the Minnesota 29.
The Vikings (2-2) lost more than just possession, when Cook limped off with an injury to his left knee and did not return.
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Tahir Whitehead recovered that fumble for the Lions, plus one by Adam Thielen with 1:43 left at the Detroit 45 that ended the last-chance drive for the Vikings.
Detroit (3-1) leads the NFL in turnover margin, at plus-9.
Abdullah came close to ending a four-year stretch by the Lions without a 100-yard rusher, finishing with 94 yards on 20 carries before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury.
Matthew Stafford was sacked six times for 55 yards, but he hung on to the ball each time and completed 19 of 31 passes for 209 yards plus the key 2-point conversion to T.J. Jones to give the Lions a seven-point lead.
Case Keenum started in place of Sam Bradford at quarterback for the Vikings for the third straight game, going 16 for 30 for 219 yards. He was sacked by Zettel for an 11-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 3 right before the two-minute warning, and his fourth down heave into the end zone sailed over Thielen’s head.
The Vikings had only 120 yards in the second half.
As dominant as their defense was, they still made some costly mistakes. Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr and Trae Waynes each had their hands on passes by Stafford that could’ve realistically been intercepted.
On the last play of the first quarter, Stafford found Marvin Jones open in a hole in the zone coverage for a leaping 38-yard completion on third-and-17 that set up the first of two field goals by Matt Prater.
Prater’s second kick was made possible by a botched play that started with a direct snap to running back Jerick McKinnon, who faked an inside handoff to Cook and tried to take off on an option play before fumbling.
Cook had 13 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown before he was hurt. Latavius Murray took over after that.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer fell to 2-5 in his against the Lions, who have won nine of the past 14 meetings with their NFC North rival.
Kai Forbath’s streak of 21 straight made field goals since joining the Vikings for the final seven games of last season ended with a bonk off the right goalpost at a critical time, in the final minute of the third quarter.
Prater’s 59-yard field goal on the final play of the first half fell short for his first miss of the season. Prater has four makes from 50-plus yards this season.
Lions: Rookie middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, the team’s leading tackler through two games, sat out for the second straight time.
He’s recovering from a concussion, and he had a neck injury added on Friday. Another starter, OLB Paul Worrilow, limped off with a left knee injury on the defense’s first play. Nick Bellore and Steve Longa filled in.
Vikings: Thielen limped off with an injury to his left leg after a first down catch set up Cook’s score in the second quarter, but he quickly returned.
The Lions host Carolina next Sunday, before traveling to New Orleans for a game on Oct. 15 that precedes their bye week.
The Vikings play at Chicago on Oct. 9, their second Monday night game in the first five weeks. They return home to host Green Bay on Oct. 15.