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FOUR DOWNS: Another slow start hurts Lions


Make it three games in a row where the Lions have failed to show up ready to play in the first quarter.

The Lions spotted both the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears 10-0 leads in their previous two contests. Detroit was able to battle back and win both of those games late, but they played with fire one too many times on Thanksgiving, and the Vikings burned them.

Detroit won the opening coin toss and decided to take the football to try and sieze momentum with an early lead. Unfortunately for them, they gained only nine yards on their first three plays and were forced to punt.

"We've got to find a way to avoid that and just as team ... we've got to start a little faster," quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

The Vikings proceeded to march 80 yards in 14 plays on their opening possession, capped off by a 2-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to tight end Kyle Rudolph. There was some confusion and miscommunication on the touchdown play from the Lions' defense as they tried to substitute new personnel into the game. They played the down with only 10 defenders on the field.

Just two plays after the Rudolph touchdown, Stafford and running back Ameer Abdullah fumbled a handoff exchange that was recovered by Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter at the Detroit 39-yard line. It would result in a Keenum 9-yard touchdown run and a 13-0 Lions deficit.

"We just dug a little too much of a hole," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said after the game. "Just didn't perform well on the onset and anytime you do that against a good team, it's going to be tough.

"We fought back and gave ourselves a chance, but some of those holes are a little too big to dig out of. We have to do a better job at the beginning. All three phases."

Minnesota would push their lead to 20-3 at one point in the second quarter. Against Cleveland and Chicago, who have three wins between them, falling behind by double digits early didn't kill them. Against the now 9-2 Vikings, it proved to be too much to overcome.

Somehow, some way, the Lions have to figure out a way to start games better, and keep themselves out of big deficits early in ball games.


The Lions aren't mathematically out of the NFC North race, but their loss to Minnesota on Thanksgiving puts them behind the eight ball down three games with just five left.

The loss leaves little room for error for the Lions in the race for their first division title since 1993, and the Lions will need plenty of help along the way. The Vikings do play Atlanta and Carolina on the road the next two weeks.

View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day matchup vs. Minnesota Vikings.

"There's a lot of football left," Caldwell said. "There's a guy that I know that was in this league a long time and he said if you're around .500 when you're sitting down for your Thanksgiving dinner, you still have a chance.

"I've experienced it. We were 6-6 at one point in Indy (Indianapolis). We had to win the last four and won the last four. Don't count us out just yet."

The loss also puts the Lions behind Carolina (7-3), Atlanta (6-4) and Seattle (6-4) for the Wild Card heading into those teams' games this weekend.

"We have a lot of football yet to play," Caldwell said. "You don't know what's going to happen. There's other games being played, too. I know the media will paint it as the sky is falling. The sky is not falling for us."

The sky certainly isn't falling, but there is little room for error these next five weeks.


Detroit lost 30-23 Thursday, but it could have been a little worse if not for A'Shawn Robinson and Jeremiah Ledbetter having a bit of a block party on special teams.

Robinson, who is no stranger to getting his hand on the football – 11 passes defended over the last two seasons –blocked a Kai Forbath extra point attempt in the first quarter, following Minnesota's first touchdown of the game.

Ledbetter got in on the action in the second quarter when he got penetration and blocked a 53-yard Forbath field goal attempt.

That's four points Robinson and Ledbetter kept off the scoreboard. It helped make it a close game at the end.


Like a prize fighter, Minnesota came out of the locker room in the second half and punched the Lions' defense right in the mouth on four key plays.

After Detroit scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the second quarter to trim the Vikings halftime lead to 20-10, Minnesota received the ball to begin the second half. They only needed four plays to punch the ball into the end zone – all four plays being runs.

Caldwell said the sequence was disappointing to watch.

"They just took it right down the field," he said. "They had 75 yards rushing just in that sequence."

Vikings running back Latavius Murray kicked off the half with a 46-yard run to the Lions 29-yard line.

Running back Jerick McKinnon gained 16 and 11 yards, respectively, down to the Lions 2-yard line on the next two plays.

Murray capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that gave the Vikings a 27-10 lead.

Talk about a team coming out of the locker room and making a statement. Murray's touchdown run proved to be the difference in the game.

"That one was tough," Caldwell said. "It didn't knock us out of it, but nevertheless made things more difficult."

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