The Lions and Vikings battled back and forth Sunday until Minnesota was finally able to extend the lead enough in the fourth quarter to come away with a 37-35 victory.
There were seven lead changes until Minnesota put back-to-back scores on the board in the third quarter on an Alexander Mattison 2-yard touchdown run followed by a 23-yard Dan Bailey field goal following a Matthew Stafford interception. That gave Minnesota an eight-point lead. Up until that point, the Lions and Vikings had traded scores.
Trailing 37-29 late in the fourth quarter, rookie running back D’Andre Swift ran for a 2-yard touchdown to trim the Minnesota lead to 37-35 with a little more than four minutes left in the game. The Lions failed to convert the two-point try.
The Vikings took that 37-29 lead on a Kirk Cousins 1-yard quarterback sneak, which came two plays after Lions safety Tracy Walker was called for a very questionable roughing the passer penalty on a 4th and 1 sack.
Leading 37-35, Minnesota marched down into Detroit territory – converting a 4th and 1 along the way – and ran the rest of the clock out inside the Lions' 10-yard line with a few Cousins kneel downs.
QB comparison: It's been a tough season for Stafford on the injury front, but he was able to start all 16 games and he finished with a solid game Sunday, completing 20-of-31 passes for 293 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 114.0.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 28 of his 40 passes for 405 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 127.6.
Promising trend: Detroit's offense hasn't been the problem this year for a team that finished 5-11. Stafford reached 4,000 yards passing on the year Sunday, and Detroit's 35 points scored marked the 14th time this season Detroit's scored at least 20-plus points. They scored 29 points or more five times and were 3-2 in those contests.
There are some young players on that side of the ball to be excited about in Swift, tight end T.J. Hockenson, center Frank Ragnow, left tackle Taylor Decker and others.
Worrisome trend: I expect a total system reboot on defense for the Lions this offseason. Minnesota's 508 total yards of offense gained and 37 points scored were enough to give this year's defense the distinction of allowing the most yards (6,716) and points (519) by any defense in franchise history, breaking the previous marks set by the winless team of 2008.
Heading into Sunday, Detroit's defense ranked in the bottom five of the league in rushing (29th), passing (30th), total (31st) and scoring (32nd).
It's been a tough year on defense for Detroit. The new incoming regime will no-doubt look to improve the talent level and depth across the board on that side of the ball this offseason.
Injury report: Defensive tackle Nick Williams left the contest in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.
Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai left the game in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion. Left guard Jonah Jackson also left the game in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion. Neither player returned.
Defensive tackle Danny Shelton also left in the second half and did not return due to a triceps injury.