Danielle Hunter had three of Minnesota’s five sacks to spearhead a resurgence by the defense, and the Vikings sailed past Detroit 20-7 on Sunday to stick the Lions with their sixth straight loss.
Kirk Cousins passed for 242 yards and a touchdown in an efficient if unspectacular performance, and Dalvin Cook had 75 yards from scrimmage and a rushing score on 20 touches over three quarters as the Vikings (9-4) took it easy on their star tailback after an injury to his collarbone area forced him out of the previous game.
The defense stole the show, even though the opponent was undrafted rookie quarterback David Blough. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford was sidelined by hip and back injuries for the fifth straight game.
Blough went 24 for 40 for 205 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the second half, and the Vikings yielded their lowest score in 31 regular-season games since a 16-0 win at Green Bay on Dec. 23, 2017. The Lions entered the week averaging 5.8 yards per play, the fourth-best in the NFL, but the Vikings held them to 3.2 yards per play.
For the first time this season, the Lions (3-9-1) never held a lead. They entered the game with 92 first-quarter points, the most in the NFC, but they netted only 70 total yards on 32 plays in the first half and trailed 20-0 until Kenny Golladay’s 10-yard reception in the end zone with 2:09 left. That catch pushed the third-year wide receiver past the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season.
The Lions fell to 9-19-1 under coach Matt Patricia, including 2-5 against NFC North foes.
After passing for four touchdowns and 337 yards at Detroit earlier this season, Cousins faced plenty of deep-safety coverage and had only one success with a long ball, a 44-yard completion to Stefon Diggs that set up Cook’s touchdown late in the second quarter.
The Vikings again played without two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen, who pulled his hamstring during a touchdown catch in the first quarter at Detroit on Oct. 20. They went on to post season highs in yards (503) and points (42) in that victory without him. Though there have been a few rough spots, Cousins ably managed without him over the previous six games to keep the Vikings on track for the postseason.
The Vikings returned home from a 37-30 defeat at Seattle on Monday night to a favorable matchup with the team they’ve beaten 76 times in 59 seasons as a franchise, 16 more than the next-closest opponent. Though the Vikings have lost at home to the Lions three times in six years under coach Mike Zimmer, none of those came late in the season. The last time the Vikings were beaten at home in the second half of the schedule by the Lions was on Dec. 14, 1997.
After a sharp debut on Thanksgiving Day in a defeat by Chicago, one of four losses this year by four points or fewer for Detroit, Blough faced another tough test with his first road start in one of the NFL’s noisiest venues.
The first drive could hardly have been harder. Harrison Smith and Shamar Stephen batted down Blough’s first two passes at the line of scrimmage, and Danielle Hunter became the youngest player in NFL history at age 25 and 40 days to reach 50 career sacks by taking down Blough to force a three-and-out. Hunter has 11 sacks in nine career games against the Lions.
Lions: LB Jarrad Davis hurt his ankle in the first quarter and aggravated it in the third quarter, with Jahlani Tavai filling in. ... RT Rick Wagner injured his knee in the third quarter and was replaced by Tyrell Crosby. ... RB Bo Scarbrough, who rushed for 65 yards on 19 attempts, hurt his ribs in the fourth quarter, and Ty Johnson took over.
Vikings: CB Xavier Rhodes rolled his right ankle during Smith’s interception and didn’t return. CB Mike Hughes, who took some of Rhodes’ turns in the first half, hurt his oblique muscle in the fourth quarter. ... With Thielen inactive for the fifth time in six games, Johnson again got the start. The seventh-round draft pick contributed his third TD of the season, a leaping catch he secured as he fell on his back.