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The Lions have opened up a two-game lead in the NFC North after upending the Vikings in dramatic fashion.

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First down

Among the Lions’ position groups, none has been more maligned for their performance this season than the linebackers. Health has been a factor, certainly, but the corps has really struggled in coverage this season, particularly against tight ends.

While the showing against the Vikings fell far short of perfect, it was unquestionable a big step in the right direction. Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph led his team with nine catches, but was limited to 64 yards and held out of the end zone.

More importantly, Detroit’s Tahir Whitehead and Josh Bynes combined to make four third-down stops, forcing Minnesota to either punt or settle for a field goal. The pair also each came up with a tackle for a loss, helping end a pair of drives.

What could make this improvement even better is the insertion of DeAndre Levy into the lineup. The veteran was scratched from the lineup once again with a knee injury, but is reasonably expected to return next week against the New Orleans Saints.

Second down

After getting a taste of playing time last week, subbing in briefly for both Larry Warford and Graham Glasgow, 2015 first-round pick Laken Tomlinson found himself getting another opportunity to prove himself after being benched last month.

Benched following a string of inconsistent performances, similar struggles from Glasgow, who had been battling an ankle injury earlier this week, was enough for the Lions to turn to Tomlinson early in the game.

The injury might have been a factor in Glasgow’s performance, but it didn’t prevent the Lions from using him on special teams the remainder of the game.

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Third down

At the end of the first half, the Lions had an opportunity to attempt a 67-yard field goal, but opted instead for a Hail Mary attempt, which was unsuccessful.

Kicker Matt Prater holds the NFL record with a 64-yard make while with the Denver Broncos, and set the Lions’ franchise mark last season with a 59-yard boot. He made a brief case to coaches on the sideline to attempt the 67-yarder, but there was a logical reason the team didn’t seriously consider it.

“Sometimes you look at it, but the trajectory of that ball is a bit different, could get blocked,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “The other thing is, you got to remember they put 84 (Cordarrelle Patterson) back there and if that things is a bit short, and you’ve got your lineman chasing him around on the field? Yeah, I think we look at things a bit differently.”

Patterson is the NFL’s best kick returner, so there was little reason to attempt the field goal and give the Vikings a chance to put seven on the board before heading to the locker room.

Fourth down

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, delivered a unique, passionate and lengthy version of the national anthem that sparked spirited debate across social media.

Franklin, on piano and accompanied by a second piano player, performed a bluesy rendition that clocked in at 4:38.

For what it’s worth, I thoroughly enjoyed Franklin’s take.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/justin_rogers

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