In an edgy bout between two NFC North rivals, the Lions (3-1) knocked out the Vikings (2-2) in a game that saw Minnesota suffer a season-altering injury on offense. Here’s what we learned from Detroit’s 14-7 victory:
1. This divisional clash took a pivotal turn five minutes into the second half when Minnesota rookie workhorse Dalvin Cook crumbled to the turf with a non-contact knee injury. The second-round running back was quickly ruled out following a play that saw him lose his second fumble in as many possessions, sending the Lions on their way toward a five-play, 29-yard touchdown march that put Detroit up for good at 14-7.
Back to Cook, whose loss cannot be understated: His prognosis remains unknown, but the former Florida State star leads the team this season with 354 yards on the ground at 4.8 yards per rush with another 90 yards through the air off 11 receptions. The drop off from Cook to Jerick McKinnon — who suffered an ankle injury of his own — is steep and puts Minnesota’s season in a truly dark place. From an injury perspective, this feels like one of the unluckiest franchises league-wide.
2. Detroit’s backfield came into Sunday having gone a “league-leading” 55 straight games without a 100-yard rusher. The Lions came painfully close to snapping that streak after Ameer Abdullah gashed Minnesota for 94 yards at 4.7 yards per attempt. While the Lions struggled in pass protection, the line successfully opened holes for Abdullah, who gained extra yards with his highlight-reel cutting ability, despite failing to cross the 100-yard threshold. It was a rare site to see Matthew Stafford checking down into successful run plays to keep the offense chugging.
3. This was a sleepy affair out of the gate with both teams combining for three points and six punts over the first 29 minutes of play before Cook raced off left guard for a five-yard score before the half. Coming off his monstrous, 369-yard, three-touchdown explosion in Week 3, Case Keenum (16-of-30 passing for 219 yards) returned to the land of mortal signal-callers. Sam Bradford‘s backup was out of sync with his wideouts for multiple drives at a time, especially on Minnesota’s final two possessions. On third-and-goal from Detroit’s 3, with 2:31 left in the game, Keenum drifted backwards before taking an 11-yard sack from Anthony Zettel. On the following play, Keenum sailed the ball high out of the end zone. The Vikings got the ball back with 1:51 on the clock, but it was not to be as Adam Thielen caught a 11-yard strike from Keenum only to fumble the pigskin away. Game over.
4. Making his 100th consecutive start, Matthew Stafford (19-of-31 passing for 209 yards) struggled against the Vikings, taking six sacks from an active Minnesota pass rush and looking stuck in the mud before finding Marvin Jones on a 38-yard laser that led to a field goal, Detroit’s lone first-half score. That wound up as the team’s longest gain through the air, with no Lions pass-catcher topping 42 yards. This attack looked nonfunctional with Stafford taking punishment from wire to wire, but some of those sacks and hits came as the result of the Lions quarterback holding the ball forever.
5. Vikings pass-rusher Everson Griffen turned heads this week after calling Lions left tackle Greg Robinson a “lazy” athlete. Griffen wound up with one sack on the day, but Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter — with two takedowns — wound up as the much bigger headache in a dominant performance against right tackle Rick Wagner. Detroit spent much of the game employing two-wideout sets to bring in extra blocking help.