Justin Rogers and Bob Wojnowski discuss the Lions' latest loss and whether there's any way to justify Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia stay. The Detroit News
Minneapolis — About an hour before kickoff, the Minnesota Vikings posted a single-frame comic on Twitter with the caption, "Ready to sweep the Lions." The image showed a burly, angry viking brooming away a helpless lion cub.
The illustration perfectly projected the matchup's outcome. Coming into the game, the Lions had established a reputation for putting up a good fight, but consistently coming up short. But on Sunday, the team played the role of the nail to the Vikings' hammer in a 20-7 loss at U.S. Bank Field.
The dismantling was thorough, and for the first time this season, the outcome was never in question. The heavily favored Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead by the half as the Lions' offense bumbled its way to 70 yards with six possessions through two quarters, going three-and-out on four of those drives.
"It was obviously frustrating to start slow," Lions quarterback David Blough said. "It's something we harp on, and it can't happen for us, can't happen for me."
The loss marked the first time this season the Lions didn't hold a lead in a game.
Minnesota broke the scoreless tie on its second series, driving 82 yards on 10 plays. Quarterback Kirk Cousins capped the methodical possession with a 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Bisi Johnson, who beat rookie cornerback Amani Oruwariye on a crossing pattern.
"There was a lot of separation there coming out of my fake," Cousins said. "You usually don't expect someone to be so open in the red zone."
The Vikings added a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter before busting the game open just before the half.
Following a missed field goal by Lions kicker Matt Prater — who sent the 45-yard effort wide right — Cousins connected with top receiver Stefon Diggs three times on four plays, including a 44-yard bomb down the right sideline that set the Vikings up first-and-goal at the 3.
"Their best corner (Darius Slay) was covering him, so it was good on good there," Cousins said. "But Diggs did a great job running it down, holding on, keeping his feet in bounds. No surprise that he did that. You trust him in those moments to go down the field and make a play."
Slay credited Diggs for the great catch, but also said the receiver got away with a push-off.
Two plays later, running back Dalvin Cook took a toss around the right edge untouched, extending the lead to 17 at the break.
Cousins was nearly perfect through two quarters, completing 17 of his 20 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. He finished the day 24-for-30 passing for 242 yards and the score.
The two sides went scoreless in the third quarter, combining to go three-and-out on the first four possessions. The Lions didn't even need a third play on their third drive as Blough, under pressure, threw a pass well over the head of Kenny Golladay that was intercepted by Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
Blough, making his second start for the Lions, struggled. He was sacked five times, often because he held on to the ball too long, and tallied just 74 yards passing through three quarters, before inflating his final line in the final frame when the game was already decided.
Looking to chew up the clock, the Vikings ran the ball six of the next seven plays following the turnover, converting the mistake into a 50-yard Dan Bailey field goal to open the fourth quarter.
The Vikings continued to sit on the lead with their ground game throughout the fourth quarter, before allowing the Lions to break the shutout with a touchdown in the closing minutes. With 2:09 remaining, Blough connected with Golladay for his NFL-leading 10th touchdown reception.
The late touchdown prevented the Lions from being held scoreless for the first time since the 2009 season.
The Vikings all but ensured the victory by recovering the ensuing onside kick. Even after getting the ball back, Blough was picked off a second time, by safety Andrew Sendejo in the end zone.
Blough finished with 24 completions out of his 40 pass attempts for 205 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Three of his five sacks were by defensive end Danielle Hunter.
"I can't put us in the position of taking those sacks," Blough said. "I can't leave those linemen out to dry on some of those. Five is five too many.
The loss was Detroit's sixth straight, dropping them to 3-9-1 on the season. The Vikings moved to 9-4, maintaining their lead for a wild card spot in the NFC and staying within a game of the Green Bay Packers for the division lead.
With Atlanta's win over Carolina, Detroit moved up one spot in the draft order. The Lions are currently slated to select No. 5 overall in April.