MINNEAPOLIS – Burning questions: The offense missing chances, breaking down and giving away a score with the Detroit Lions getting thoroughly outplayed in a 24-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday:
Question: What did it mean that the Lions were outplayed again after last week's 28-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks?
Answer: It meant the same thing it has meant for too long – that the Lions still lack what it takes to beat good teams and win big games on a consistent basis.
Sunday's game wasn't necessarily a big game, in the sense that it was for a playoff berth or a division title, but it was meaningful because of the position it left the two teams in the NFC North race.
The result: The Vikings are in contention with a 5-3-1 record; the Lions are in last place with a 3-5 record.
And how they lost was disappointing. They were dominated up front – particularly in the trenches on offense – for the second straight game.
Q. Statistic: Which one was most important in telling the story of the game?
A. Easy answer: 10. Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times, and the way he scrambled all game it looked like 20 – and probably felt like 50 tons.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 9 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Q. Stafford's fault: Were some of the sacks on him? It looked like he held the ball more often than usual.
A. There were probably a couple where he could have pulled the trigger early, but holding the ball has never been his style. He gets rid of the ball and spreads it around. He probably had to hold the ball because nobody was getting open downfield.
That doesn't mean he played a great game, or even a very good one. He made one big mistake in the fourth quarter when he tried to pitch the ball to Kerryon Johnson when he was rolling right on a scramble.
Johnson couldn't handle the pitchout. The Vikings recovered and ran the ball in for their final touchdown.
Q. Lions' minor rally: At a key point in the first half, what would you call the way the Lions came back after the Vikings' touchdown to cut the deficit to 7-6 with two field goals?
A. Good and bad – that adds up to losing football.
Q. Good: What was it?
A. They put points on the board and made it a one-point game. They were in the game when it was 7-6 with a little less than five minutes left in the half.
Q. Bad: What was it?
A. They failed to take advantage of their opportunities when they were in scoring territory. In fact, they made more bad plays than good plays.
On the first field goal possession they had first and goal at the four. That became first and goal at the nine on a penalty against guard Kenny Wiggins for a false start. A sack on third down forced them to settle for the field goal.
On the second field goal possession, Darius Slay's interception and 21-yard return gave the Lions possession at Minnesota's 44. The possession continued to the 12, where the Lions had first down. A throwaway on first down with nobody open was followed by sacks on second and third down. Then came another field goal.
Bottom line: On consecutive possessions, first and goal at the four and first down at the 12 netted a penalty, three sacks, six points and 17 yards lost from the original line of scrimmage.
That is not winning football.
Q. Golden Tate: Did the offense miss him?
A. Yes, to some degree. But not enough to make a difference in the outcome. His last game as a Lion was last Sunday --- a 28-14 loss at home to Seattle. There wasn't any rhythm or consistency in the passing game, and that could have been from Stafford not having his most frequent target available.
Q. Ziggy Ansah: He played for the first time since the opener. Did he help?
A. To some degree – but not enough to make a difference in the outcome. He sacked Kirk Cousins to force a field goal late in the second quarter. In a closer game – with a more competitive performance overall by the Lions – that could have been a key play.
Q. Fourth and go: On the drive to the second field goal the Lions went for it on fourth and one at the Vikings' 34. Right call?
A. It's what I would have done. My first guess opinion – before the decision was made – was to go for it.
Q. Kickoff flub: Sam Martin squibbed a short opening kickoff, and it allowed the Vikings to begin their opening possession at their 35. Was the short kick by design?
A. It sure didn't look like it. And seeing how the Vikings marched right through the Lions to score their first touchdown, it didn't matter. The Vikings drove 65 yards on nine plays. Cousins completed all five of his passes for 50 yards.
It was a very poor defensive performance by the Lions. The kickoff had nothing to do with it. Martin could have kicked the ball far enough to make the Vikings start their first possession in the stadium parking lot.
The Vikings could have played the game there and won, too.