There is almost no margin for error in some games.
That's what we learned in the Detroit Lions' 20-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
The Vikings were the better team, as shown by the won-loss records going into the game – 8-4 for the Vikings, to 3-8-1 for the Lions. They had numerous other advantages. Playing at home, and the motivation of competing for a playoff berth were two big ones.
The bottom line: The Lions had a lot to overcome to pull off an upset.
Among the other things we learned included the following: Having a full game behind him as the Lions' starter on Thanksgiving Day didn't guarantee a better performance in his second start for rookie quarterback David Blough; the Vikings' pass rush that was held in check in the first meeting on Week 7 still had the potential to be a disruptive force; and players continue to play hard in games, even when there is no obvious incentive.
We start with the Vikings' advantages:
The deck was stacked in their favor from the beginning.
For one thing, the Vikings' 42-30 win in the first meeting in Week 7 at Ford Field was evidence that they were the better team. At the time, the Lions were 2-2-1 and still in the hunt for a playoff berth. The Vikings were 4-2, and soon to be 5-2 with a third win in what would become a four-game winning streak.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was a healthy starter in that game and threw four touchdown passes. The Vikings overcame that with four TD passes from Kirk Cousins and 142 yards rushing and two TDs by running back Dalvin Cook.
In the most recent outing, the Lions started slow on offense and defense, allowing the Vikings to build a 10-0 lead in the first half.
And they failed to cash in a scoring opportunity late in the first half, with an untimely sack on third down by quarterback David Blough and a missed 45-yard field goal attempt by Matt Prater.
The Vikings converted the Lions' missed opportunity into a touchdown of their own with 20 seconds left in the half to increase the lead to 17-0.
The Lions were unable to generate any turnovers that would have helped the defense stop drives and give the offense chances to convert them into points.
The Lions were in a tough spot going into the game, and they didn't do enough to make it easier on themselves.
Rookie review: We learned that there isn't necessarily a carryover for a young quarterback from one game to the next. That was the case for Blough.
In fairness, it was unrealistic to think he would match what he did in his first career start against the Bears. He threw touchdown passes on the first two possessions
On the first possession against the Vikings, his first two passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage, and he was sacked on third down. On the second possession, two runs by Bo Scarbrough gained eight yards. Blough's pass on third down was incomplete, forcing a punt.
He was sacked four times in the first half, and once more in the second half. There were a couple of bad sacks that he could have avoided by throwing the ball away when he got outside the pocket.
"I can't put us in the position of taking those sacks," Blough said after the game. "I can't leave those linemen out to dry in some of those. Five (sacks) is five too many. I can't hold the ball too long – take us out of field-goal range.
"It didn't help our chances. We could have got points at a crucial time in the game."
Sack attack: The Vikings' pass rush is always a threat to the Lions, no matter what has happened in previous games.
Sooner or later, the Vikings will get to the quarterback. They had five sacks Sunday, and it started on the first possession with the first of Danielle Hunter's three sacks on the first possession. Everson Griffen and Jaleel Johnson also had sacks.
Pass protection had tightened up against the Vikings since they sacked Stafford 10 times in Week 9 of last year. Before Sunday's game, the Vikings had been held to two sacks in each of the last two games.
Golladay: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay continued to play hard to the end of Sunday's game, and his reward for his effort was a 10-yard TD catch with 2:09 left. Blough threaded the ball into a tight opening.
It didn't affect the outcome, but it gave Golladay the league lead with 10 TD catches. He's also ninth with 1,008 receiving yards.
There could be another reward coming for Golladay – a trip to the Pro Bowl.