MINNEAPOLIS – Lions-Vikings Burning Questions: A tough start for the Lions' offense and rookie quarterback David Blough, a series of key plays late in the first half that didn't go the Lions' way and a tough day all around for the Lions in Sunday's 20-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings:
Question: The most basic question --- what made the difference in the game?
Answer: It was a good team, the Vikings, with a lot to play for against a Lions team on a losing streak that has reached six games.
It doesn't take analytics or an in-depth study. The Lions managed to be competitive in the losing steak, but on Sunday they ran into a better team that beat them by 12 points in Week 7 at Ford Field and was determined to do at least that well in the rematch.
And they did just that.
The Lions had a chance to make a game of it late in the first half, but they couldn't take advantage of that small window of opportunity.
Q. The start: Was it a sign of what was to come that the Lions' offense went three and out on their first possession? Blough's first two passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage, and he was sacked on third down.
A. The whole offense struggled. He wasn't the only one, but he did not build on his performance in his first start on opening day. It can't be stressed enough that the Vikings were better.
The Lions finally broke through on Blough's TD pass to wide receiver Kenny Golladay on fourth down just before the two-minute warning. At least that avoided a shutout.
Q. Key play, first half: Was there one? And if there was, what was it?
A. There was a series of key plays, all strung together in the last two minutes that changed the complexion of the game. Unfortunately for the Lions, they all went against them – except for one.
Q. Game change: How could one play, or even a series of plays, change the game when the Vikings had a 17-0 lead?
A. There's no doubt that the Vikings were dominating the game. They had a 10-0 lead when the Lions got the ball after a field goal, but the Lions were driving late in the first half. Despite everything that had happened to that point, they had a chance to close the gap and make it a game in terms of the score.
That's when the plays started to go against the Lions.
View photos from the Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Week 14 game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019 in Minneapolis.
Q. Scenario: What happened that led to the key plays?
A. After the field goal gave the Vikings a 10-0 lead, the Lions drove to the 18-yard line where it was second and five. That set up the series of key plays.
Q. Key play No. 1: What was it?
A. A sideline pass to running back J.D. McKissic was ruled incomplete, making it third and five. But a replay review overturned the call on the field, giving the Lions third and two at the 15. It was a big break for the Lions and put them in a favorable situation to go for the first down.
Q. Key play 2: What was it?
A. Blough was making his second start at quarterback for the Lions, and he had struggled from the opening possession. On the third and two play he dropped back to pass and tried to run away backward and to his left away from the Vikings' rush.
He finally was tackled for a 12-yard loss, back to the 27. He should have gotten rid of the ball to avoid the loss. That made it a 45-yard field-goal attempt for Matt Prater instead of a 33-yard attempt.
Q. Key play 3: What was it?
A. Prater missed the field goal. He was wide right. That gave the Vikings possession at the 35 with 1:06 left.
Q. Key play 4: What was it?
A. On the fourth play of the Vikings' possession, wide receiver Stefon Diggs beat cornerback Darius Slay on a 44-yard catch down the right sideline. That gave the Vikings first and goal at the three-yard line.
Two plays later, running back Dalvin Cook scored on a three-yard run to make it 17-0.
Q. Stretching a point: Isn't that the case in looking for a key play – or even a series – in a game with a lopsided score?
A. Yes, and no. Yes, because the score means everything, and the Vikings were in control from the beginning.
The Vikings were dominating the game when they took the 10-0 lead. They had an advantage of 187-21 in yards gained, and 15-2 in first downs.
The Lions needed something to happen at that point, and they had a chance to do just that. But instead of cutting the lead to 10-7 with a touchdown or even 10-3 with a field goal, it turned out that they got neither, and the Vikings scored a touchdown to take a lead that the Lions could not overcome, despite their effort.