Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings: Live Score, Highlights and Analysis
When these teams met in Week 4, the Lions were at home and confident that they would be able to take care of business.
What ensued was an outstanding game by both defenses, in which the Vikings' ability to bludgeon the Lions on special teams was ultimately the difference.
This time around, the Lions are playing well on special teams, Percy Harvin is likely to sit out with injury, and these teams are trending in opposite directions.
Will those trends continue today, with the Lions splitting the season series with the Vikings and moving back above .500 for the first time since the season's opening week?
Or will the Vikings complete the season sweep over the Lions at home, silence their doubters and keep themselves solidly in playoff position?
We'll find out as this game airs Sunday at 1 p.m. on FOX, and I'll be here to talk you through the highlights, news, injury updates and whatever else unfolds in this game.
Final Score: Lions 24, Vikings 34
Vikings Win 34-24!
For the first time since 2009, the Minnesota Vikings sweep the season series against the Detroit Lions.
Both of these teams needed their best players to come up big, and both of them did, especially in the second half. Calvin Johnson scored his second touchdown of the season on top of 207 receiving yards to bring the Lions within striking distance.
But just as he did, Adrian Peterson put the game away when it was close in the fourth with a 61-yard touchdown run. He finished with 171 yards on the ground.
Christian Ponder deserves some credit for a sharp, methodical game, just as he was coming under a great deal of criticism for his play. He kept the offense moving, and counter-punched every time it seemed like the Lions were getting back into the game.
This loss will drop the Lions to 4-5, with an 0-3 record in the NFC North. Not only are they back below .500 once again, after what was a must-win game for them, but the Vikings now own a tiebreaker over them if they end up battling for a playoff spot.
The Vikings, meanwhile, recover from losing three of four to improve to 6-4. They're in the driver's seat in the playoff race now.
The Lions will try once again to salvage their season with an even tougher contest against the Green Bay Packers next week, and a loss there will drop them to 0-4 in the NFC North, and surely destroy any hopes of the kind of second-half comeback that has defined them in individual games.
The Vikings, meanwhile, get a well-deserved day off next week, comfortable with the knowledge that they control their own destiny over their last six games.
Well, the game may be lost, but maybe there's a silver lining. Though it was in garbage time, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson finally hooked up for a touchdown this season.
Johnson now has over 200 yards receiving in this game and a touchdown. Maybe that will pave the way for more offensive production later on this season, but it didn't help enough today, primarily because the defense fell apart when the Lions needed it most.
Field Goal Vikings!
Might be a "camel's back" moment in Minnesota as the Lions go to Calvin Johnson in another comeback attempt, and Johnson makes the catch but fumbles the football.
The Vikings recover, and immediately, Adrian Peterson is back on his horse. They don't punch it in for six, but the Lions are doubled up now with very little time left. This one looks to be in the books.
Current Score: Lions 17, Vikings 34
Injury Alert: To add insult to injury, Lions CB Chris Houston, who was shaken up on the long Adrian Peterson run, is being carted back to the locker room.
And that's why it was a bad idea for the Lions to let the Vikings go up early.
Adrian Peterson takes the ball 61 yards for a touchdown, and despite there still being lots of time left, the Vikings are up two touchdowns.
At this point, even if the Lions score quickly, Peterson still lurks to do the same thing on the next drive, and the Lions don't seem to have an answer.
Current Score: Lions 17, Vikings 31 (8:06 4Q)
The Lions came up big with a three-and-out on the Vikings offense, but the Vikings respond and do the same to the Lions' offense on what could have been the game-tying drive.
There's still plenty of time for lots of things to happen, but the Vikings needed that stop after giving up two quick scores, and they got it.
Now, with under 10 minutes left in the game, the Vikings will be looking to run the clock and get any kind of score. If they do that, they can put this game just about out of reach, with the caveat that the Lions often come back from that, too.
Current Score: Lions 17, Vikings 24 (9:13 4Q)
All of a sudden, a tough defensive battle is turning into a shootout.
The Lions took all of 43 seconds to respond to the Vikings' scoring drive, and the formula was much the same as it was last time: deep passes to Calvin Johnson.
Titus Young snags the quick in route for the touchdown from two yards out, and the Lions make it a one-possession game once again.
It does appear, however, that the Vikings might be losing some composure. The Lions were helped down the field by two personal foul calls, and it appeared there could have been one on the ensuing kickoff.
Current Score: Lions 17, Vikings 24 (10:11 4Q)
The Vikings answer back and eliminate the Lions' momentum.
A precision drive by Christian Ponder (and some horrendous tackling by the Lions) march the Vikings down the field, and a catch-and-run by Kyle Rudolph get the Vikings in the end zone.
Adrian Peterson punched in a two-point conversion to extend the lead, but not before Jim Schwartz burned a timeout to prepare for it.
There's still lots of time left in this one, especially given the rate at which the Lions can score points. But the defense sorely needed a stop on that drive, and Christian Ponder picked them apart.
Now the Lions need to score and get stops, and in rapid succession. And Adrian Peterson is still lurking, ready to close out.
Well, that was fast.
Suddenly, the Lions decide to challenge the Vikings deep, and they are rewarded for it, chiefly because of the existence of Calvin Johnson.
Johnson mis-timed his leap 51 yards down the field, still came up with the catch, and two plays later, Matthew Stafford puts the ball on the hands of Brandon Pettigrew for a touchdown.
Lions are still down in this game, but that score here in the third quarter makes things a lot more interesting, and at least a little more tense for the Vikings.
Current Score: Lions 10, Vikings 16 (2:55 3Q)
Field Goal Vikings!
Former Chicago Bear Devin Aromashodu comes up with a big catch-and-run to get the Vikings inside the five-yard line, but Christian Ponder trips on his own lineman on first down, and the Vikings aren't able to make up the yardage for a touchdown.
That's twice now that Vikings have driven deep into Lions territory and been unable to finish. The Lions remain in the game, but if they can't figure out the Viking defense, it won't matter.
The same was true of these teams when they met six weeks ago, and the Vikings came out on top.
It's also worth noticing that with a 13-point lead, the clock will start to become a factor if the Lions can't answer, and the Vikings field the best closer in the game, Adrian Peterson.
Current Score: Lions 3, Vikings 16
It looks like the Lions, in fact, made no adjustments at all. A quick, ugly three-and-out and punt gives the Vikings the ball back in Lions territory.
The Lions offense looks pretty much the same as it did in the first half. For that matter, it looks about like it did for the first six games of the season: dormant for the first 45 minutes.
Lions will need to get it going soon, but against this Viking defense, they'll have a hard time just hitting a switch to get going.
Current Score: Lions 3, Vikings 13 (9:00 3Q)
The Vikings were moving the ball, but they wiped out a pair of first downs on the drive with penalties.
Christian Ponder was able to overcome one of those penalties, but not both.
So the Lions get a big stop to start the second half in much the same way the Vikings did to start the game (penalty-assisted).
Now it's time to see what kind of halftime adjustments the Lions made to get their offense moving.
Current Score: Lions 3, Vikings 13 (3Q)
A couple quick three-and-outs on both sides later, and the score will hold going into halftime.
Great credit has to go to the Vikings' defense for this game so far.
The secondary hasn't allowed anyone loose, the front seven has kept Mikel Leshoure under control, the pass rush has been in Stafford's face, and everybody on the team has done a great job of making tackles.
Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford has not even tried to challenge the Vikings deep, and while the Lion defense has just about matched the Vikings blow-for-blow, the big opening-drive touchdown to Jarius Wright is the big difference so far in this one.
It would seem that the Vikings decision to defer to the second half has turned out well, as they will have the opportunity to make life a whole lot more difficult for the Lions in the second half.
Current Score: Lions 3, Vikings 13 (Halftime)
At the two-minute warning, the Vikings will punt to the Lions and give them a chance to cut this game back to one possession before halftime.
Ndamukong Suh spent pretty much the entire last possession in the backfield. Any time the Lions have played well on defense in this game, it has been because of pressure up the middle.
Now the Lions are trying to move down the field, but first they have to wait for an odd richocet-ball play that was ruled a pick-6 on the field to be overturned. The ball hit the knee of a defender, then bounced off the ground and into the arms of Antoine Winfield.
Current Score: Lions 3, Vikings 13 (1:29 2Q)
Field Goal Vikings!
The Vikings strike back with a long drive of their own, which also stalls in the red zone. Difference is, the Vikings extend their lead with the Blair Walsh field goal, while the Lions need to make up ground.
So far, every apparent trend in this game has gotten uprooted the moment it was identified. The Lions' defense was playing well, then they give up a long drive.
The Vikings were bottling up Mikel Leshoure, then they let him out, then they stop him with a short field.
Despite the two-possession margin, it has been a very good, back-and-forth matchup between two teams trying to both move into playoff position and out of the NFC North cellar.
Current Score: Lions 3, Vikings 13 (4:41 2Q)
Adrian Peterson has just passed the 1,000 yard mark for this season, and he is starting to dominate the Lions at the point of attack.
The Vikings are on the move, don't be surprised if the next update is a scoring one.
Field Goal Lions!
It's not quite what the Lions were looking for after driving into the red zone, but the Lions are on the board and have things back to a one-possession game after a 41-yard field goal by Jason Hanson.
That was obviously the Lions' best drive of the game, but just as it seemed the Vikings' defense was back on its heels, they came up with two big negative yardage plays to force the field goal.
Stay tuned in this one. It doesn't seem like any either of these teams is going to go away quietly. They know what's at stake.
Current Score: Lions 3, Vikings 10 (11:07 2Q)
The end of the first quarter might be signalling a slight momentum shift.
The Lions have moved the ball with a couple of first downs, and the Vikings' last two drives have netted a loss of 11 yards.
If the Lions can score here, we're back to having a ball game.
Current Score: Lions 0, Vikings 10 (Start 2Q)
A three-and-out on offense leaves the Lions needing a spark in a big way.
They force the Vikings into a three-and-out of their own, but the Lions offense has been out of sync on the last two drives.
Nick Fairley, starting for only the third time in his short career in place of the injured Corey Williams, has come up big for the Lions so far on defense, but it'll be for naught until the Lions can prove they can score.
Field Goal Vikings!
Not the start the Lions wanted. Exactly the start the Vikings wanted.
An interception by Chad Greenway in Lions territory set the Vikings up for an easy score.
The Lions defense almost pushed the Vikings out of scoring range after Christian Ponder caught his own batted pass for a 15-yard loss, but they made enough of it back to get Blair Walsh back into field goal range.
That's a win for the Lions' defense regardless, as the Vikings took over at the Lions' 25-yard line. Vikings looking dominant early on.
Current Score: Lions 0, Vikings 10 (5:30 1Q)
A three-yard pass to rookie WR Jarius Wright puts the Vikings on top early in this one.
The drive was set up by a huge 54-yard reception from Christian Ponder to Wright, who is no doubt being looked up in media guides everywhere.
Wright is getting his first real shot of the season because of the injury to Percy Harvin, and at this point, it's hard to imagine the Vikings asking any more than this from Harvin himself.
At the very least, it doesn't appear Ponder is going to have any particular trouble surpassing 100 yards passing today.
Current Score: Lions 0, Vikings 7 (8:00 1Q)
The Lions were moving methodically with two straight first downs, but Ryan Broyles got called for an illegal crackback block, a 15-yard penalty that pretty much torpedoed the drive.
Still, Matthew Stafford seems sharp early, which is a good sign for the Lions. What isn't a good sign is that the Vikings did a good job of bottling Mikel Leshoure up.
Now it's time to see if the Vikings can have success on their opening drive.
The Vikings won the coin toss, but will defer to the second half. Lions take the ball first.
That's an interesting decision, and possibly one borne of the Vikings' awareness that the Lions play much better offensively in the second half.
We'll see how that decision works out for them as the Lions begin their opening march.
In case you're not watching the FOX pregame show, every studio analyst except Howie Long just took the Vikings to upset the Lions at the Metrodome.
Long didn't pick the game at all.
Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing for the Vikings remains to be seen.
If you haven't already heard, this is a game with incredible playoff implications. Right now, the Vikings sit with a tenuous grasp on the final wild-card spot at 5-4.
Should the Vikings come out on top in this one, they will remain over .500, and in control in the playoff race.
But should the Lions win, the Vikings will fall to 5-5, the Lions will pass them in the division, and (with a Seattle loss) it will be the Lions in the driver's seat in terms of playoff positioning.
Of course, the Lions have the toughest part of their schedule ahead of them. They're not going to be able to think about playoff positioning at all if they can't beat a couple of games against the Packers, Texans, Bears or Falcons.
Still, regardless of how tough the road may be for both of these teams, what they need to focus on is positioning themselves for the stretch run with a win today.
There is lots to pay attention to here.
The Vikings are missing Percy Harvin, who effective put the Vikings' offense and special teams on his back on the last matchup between these teams.
In addition, Christian Ponder, who started the season out playing pretty hot, has failed to pass for more than 70 yards in a handful of his most recent games, and losing one of his greatest weapons isn't going to help matters.
However, the Lions are missing both starting safeties in Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey, which should give Ponder more opportunities down the field (though Erik Coleman has played well this year).
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