Quin, Slay picks set tone for Lions' defensive prowess

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Lions safety Glover Quin returns an interception in the second quarter. It set up a Matthew Stafford touchdown throw to receiver Golden Tate.

Detroit — In need of a big play, or two, the Lions defense did just so with the game tilting away from them.

Down 14-0, and with the Lions' offense struggling to make a first down and the defense not being able to contain Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the defense came through with two crucial plays.

Defensive backs Glover Quin and Darius Slay made interceptions three Vikings plays or 1 minute, 34 seconds apart late in the second quarter, and the Lions were on their way back.

They scored 10 points off the interceptions, and rallied for a crucial 16-14 victory.

"Just making plays, that's what our defense is good at," said Slay of the crucial second quarter sequence. "Making plays, putting pressure on the quarterback, just trying to change the game. We were trusting ourselves, in each other, and we made palys."

Quin's interception ignited what was becoming a frustrated Ford Field crowd, and also charged the Lions.

Bridgewater's pass was not close to intended receiver Charles Johnson and went directly to Quin, who returned it 56 yards to the Vikings' 11.

"We had to figure out a way to make a spark, and we were able to come up with two big plays defensively to turn the momentum and shut them out the rest of the game," Quin said.

Two plays later, quarterback Matthew Stafford found Golden Tate for a 7-yard touchdown play and the Lions cut the Vikings' lead to 14-7.

The Lions' offense had been struggling, with one first down in the half. Having the short field and converting for a touchdown was a boost, thanks to the big defensive play.

"We go into every game wanting to get turnovers and they did that," said Tate of the opportunistic Lions defense. "That was definitely a spark and we needed it.

"Our offense hadn't been doing much and defense had made some stops. Then Teddy made maybe not the best throw, and Glover was there to pick it off, and the next drive Slay comes out and picks another one. Those are keys to the game."

Slay picked off Bridgewater on seconddown on the Vikings' next series, intercepting a pass intended for Greg Jennings.

The play was reviewed but upheld.

"I knew I caught that, no doubt," Slay said. "I got hands. The best hands."

The Lions earned a field goal out of that turnover, Matt Prater kicking a 29-yard field goal as the first half expired, and the tone had changed significantly.

Thanks to a defense that has been making key plays all season —and did so once again.

"It doesn't matter where we are on the field, our D-line, linebackers, safeties, corners, we make plays and it showed," defensive back James Ihedigbo said. "It's been our character all year long that it doesn't matter where we are, we have to play ball and we've shown that.

"We had some (adversity) early on in the game and a great play by Glover, which is expected, and then Slay making a heck of a play to spark us. We kind of didn't look back from that point."

Despite the early struggles, the Lions' defense wasn't emotionally down, Slay said.

"As a group we knew we could just finish it strong," Slay said. "(Quin) is just telling us 'we're the best defense, let's go out there and make plays.'"

With Green Bay losing, Detroit moved into a first-place tie in the NFC North Division, also ending their Ford Field regular season schedule with an impressive 7-1 record.

But with two weeks left in the season, there's work left to do.

"That's just the place we have," said Slay of the division lead with two games left. "We have to finish it out."