O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: How does loss impact Lions?

Burning questions: Offenses dominating, defenses struggling, and the Minnesota Vikings pull away from a tie at halftime for a 42-30 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field Sunday.

Question: What is the bottom-line fallout of the loss for the Lions?

Answer: It means that they’ve lost three straight games to drop their won-loss record to 2-3-1, and instead of getting closer to the race in the NFC North they have tumbled further into the basement.

With the Packers leading at 6-1 and the Vikings next at 5-2, the Lions aren’t really in the race. They’re watching it, and the view from last place is not encouraging.

Q. Hangover: Could the tough loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night have had any effect on the Lions’ performance?

A. No. They talked all week about moving on, and they were in the game and playing well on offense for the first half.

Q. Halftime tie, bottom line: It was 21-21 at halftime. What did it mean?

A. It was trading touchdowns for both teams. Neither defense established anything. It meant that somebody was going to have to make a stop, or get a turnover, in the second half.

The way the Lions lost players due to injuries in the first half was not a good sign for them. Running back Kerryon Johnson, defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. and cornerback Darius Slay all went out at some point in the first half.

View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings Week 7 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 in Detroit.

Q. Final score: It was Vikings 42, Lions 30. What did that mean?

A. It meant that the Vikings outscored the Lions, 21-9, in the second half, and the win was as convincing as that second-half scoring margin indicated. The Lions’ defense has had trouble closing out games since the opener against the Cardinals that ended in a tie, and the fold started early against the Vikings.

They never trailed in the second half, and their offense had an answer for everything the Lions’ defense lobbed – I wouldn’t call it threw – at them.

Q. Stat to note: Was there one that exposed the Lions’ biggest weakness?

A. Yes. And that stat was 142 – 142 yards rushing by Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, and 142 by Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Whatever the Vikings did on offense, run or pass, they did well.

Q. Lions’ D: What was the key series for that unit in the first half to make it a game?

A. It was when a punt and penalty made the Vikings start their last possession at the half at their own three-yard line. It was 14-14, and the Lions were hanging on after the Vikings had scored on two straight possessions.

A stop there would have swung the advantage to the Lions. It didn’t happen, though. The Vikings got the first down on a third-down completion.

That kept the possession alive for the Vikings in ultimately what became a 97-yard, 15-play drive that ended in Cook’s eight-yard TD run through the right side of the Lions’ defense for a 21-14 lead with 3:26 left in the half.

It looked like the Vikings would carry the lead into the second half.

They didn’t.

Q. Lions’ O: What was the key series for that unit?

A. It was the possession after Cook’s run that put the Vikings ahead. Working against the clock, the Lions drove 75 yards in 11 plays to score the tying touchdown on quarterback Matthew Stafford’s 10-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.

A lot of crazy things happened on that possession, with penalties on both sides and a dropped pass in the end zone on what would have been a difficult catch by Jones.

The Lions got the job done – with two seconds left – to make it a tie game going into the second half.

Q. Third and go: It was third and 10 at the Vikings’ 14-yard line with six seconds left when the ball was snapped. Any concern that there would be time left on the clock to try a field goal if the play wasn’t completed in time to try a field goal?

A. Absolutely a concern, but that’s a case where a coach has to rely on his quarterback to know the circumstances, time on the clock being one of them. Stafford wasted no time. He dropped, set and threw, all in one motion.

The play was completed with two seconds to spare.

Q. Right side: The Vikings picked on the right side of the Lions’ defense for a lot of their good running plays in the first half. What was the problem?

A. It’s as technical as this: The Vikings found something they could exploit, and they used it to their advantage the entire first half. Cook had 12 carries for 76 yards in the first half.

Q. Et two, Matt Patricia? Was it the right call by the Lions’ head coach to go for two points after Jones’ fourth TD catch cut Minnesota’s lead to 35-30 with 3:05 left?

A. Yes. Not only the right call, but the only call. An extra point would have cut the deficit to four points – 35-31 – and the Lions would have needed to score a TD to take the lead. They still needed a TD after the two-point attempt failed.

As it turned out, the Vikings broke it open with a clinching TD for the final score.

There were no last-minute heroics in this game.

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