It was a typical hard-fought, gritty NFC North game.
Thanks mostly to the Lions’ defense, Detroit topped the Vikings 14-7 at Minneapolis on Sunday.
With a 3-1 record, the Lions are tied with the Green Bay Packers atop the NFC North.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
The defense deserves most of the credit for the win. Minnesota could not stay on the field. Detroit won the time of possession 35:24 to 22:53 in part due to the defense and also because the offense ran the ball.
“It’s one game, but the guys played hard. We’ve been playing good defense but we had a little hiccup in the last ball game a little bit, other than that our guys have been hanging in there. Taking the ball away I think that’s one of the things that made a tremendous difference there that we were able to cause some havoc with our guys knocking the ball loose that made a big difference in the game,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said.
The Lions host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday with the Panthers (3-1) coming off a big 33-30 win over the New England Patriots.
Matthew Stafford said the Lions haven’t played their best game yet, although he credited the defense and special teams with a high level of play.
“On offense we have to get it going a little bit,’’ Stafford said.
Here are five things to know about the win:
1. Defensive end Anthony Zettel had one of the biggest plays of the game — maybe the biggest — when he sacked Case Keenum for a 10-yard loss on third-and-goal at the Lions’ 4-yard line with 2:31 left in the fourth. It forced a field-goal attempt. The ball bounced off the left upright, so the Lions were able to hold onto a 14-7 lead. He also sacked Keenum in the second quarter. It was his first career two-sack game. Zettel now has four sacks in four games. Caldwell calls him a high motor guy who is always around the ball. It wasn’t all Zettel — the defensive line also had five quarterback pressures.
2. Cornerback Nevin Lawson got away with a few tugs and holds, but still he had a solid game, helping to hold the Vikings offense to 273 yards while their average for the first three games was 400.3 yards. Lawson had three tackles and two pass defenses along with two special teams tackles.
3. Safety Miles Killebrew always seems to find the ball and when he does he hits and he hits hard. Fox Sports Detroit’s Rob Rubick said the Lions haven’t had a safety who hits like that since Bennie Blades. That’s a long time ago. Killebrew had two pass defenses including one in the end zone. He had both hands on the ball but couldn’t hold on for the interception. Killebrew also had three tackles.
4. The Lions’ defense recovered three fumbles. Usually a team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. They won on turnovers last week but lost. Sunday they put things back in their natural order. That gives them 11 takeaways for the season with just two giveaways. It was even more impressive considering they were without starting middle linebacker Jarrad Davis (concussion/neck) and Paul Worrilow left the game early with a knee injury.
5. The offense did score 14 points, enough to win. Wasn’t a great day for Stafford (19-31, 209 yards) but in his defense he was sacked a half-dozen times. He had only been sacked six times in the first three games total. Ameer Abdullah rushed for 94 yards and would have likely hit 100 yards, but he didn’t play in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. Caldwell said after the game he could have gone back in. Abdullah scored the only touchdown on a 3-yard run in the third quarter.