Five reasons Lions lost heartbreaker to Vikings, 19-17

There are heartbreakers and then there are HEARTBREAKERS. For the second time in three games, the Lions have lost to opponents kicking field goals of 50 yards plus with no time remaining.

Coach Dan Campbell wiped away tears as he stepped to the podium for his post-game presser on Sunday after Detroit lost 19-17 to the Vikings thanks to a 54-yard field goal with no time left. 

Two weeks ago Detroit lost to the Ravens by the identical score after an NFL record-setting 66-yard field goal.

Credit goes to Campbell for finding a way to keep his bunch in the loss at Minnesota on Sunday.

“I do think in the long run this is going to pay dividends for us,’’ Campbell said. “As ugly as it is right now and hard to swallow, I do think we are building something special here that’s going to serve us well in the long term.’’

It wasn’t over until it was over. D’Andre Swift scored a touchdown on a 7-yard scamper to get within one point. Then Campbell made the bold call to go for the win instead of the tie. Jared Goff connected with KhaDarel Hodge for the 2-point conversion to give the Lions a 17-16 lead with 37 seconds left. 

The Vikings had a pair of timeouts in their pocket and were able to get in field goal range, in part due to Kirk Cousins passes to Adam Thielen for 19 and 21 yards. Greg Joseph kicked the game-winning 54-yard field goal.

So close. Again.

“We’re going to be on the winning side of these before long, hopefully sooner than later,’’ Campbell said. “It’s coming. I don’t know when, but it’s coming when you play that way and fight that way. Clean up a couple of these mishaps that shot us in the foot, our days to be on the winning side of that are coming.’’

Five things to know about the loss:

1. Quarterback Jared Goff had two key turnovers. When he was sacked late in the first quarter and fumbled the ball with the Vikings recovering. Then he was intercepted by Eddie Kendricks early in the third quarter. This loss is not all on him, but he’s got to be better. The makeshift offensive line (missing Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow due to injury) needs to protect him better too. Goff finished 21 of 35 for 203 yards. 

2. Back to the offensive line. Remember when Penei Sewelll looked so good filling in for left tackle Taylor Decker in the first game or two? He’s playing like a rookie now, mostly good plays but big mistakes now and then that are costly. Decker was on the sideline giving him pointers. Sewell, who just turned 21 on Saturday, will learn and in the meantime he will see Everson Griffen in his nightmares.

3. Surprisingly the Vikings didn’t attempt a pass on every down. The Lions inexperienced secondary could not keep up. Vikings’ wide receiver Justin Jefferson had seven catches for 124 yards. Tracy Walker had a solid game and there were a few good plays sprinkled throughout but not enough. Still Campbell said he thought the defense played “lights out.”  They held the Vikings to just one touchdown.

4. The Lions have a decent running game. If they were winning games, the speedy duo of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Willams would be getting more credit. They combined for 108 rushing yards in the loss. Williams had 57 while Swift had 51 rushing yards and the lone touchdown.

5. Were there calls the coaches would like back? Sure. But Campbell explained they were tied to risk-reward. He’s learning this young bunch’s strengths and weaknesses and game-planning around that. He went for field goals on fourth down on Sunday instead of like the previous week when he tried to convert. A loss is a loss, but he’s not letting this team get blown out. And he refuses to let them hang their heads.

UP NEXT: Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)  at Lions (0-5), 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 17. The Bengals lost, 25-22, to the Green Bay Packers in overtime on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to know as Lions face Vikings

It is Week 5 and the Lions are still looking for their first win. It’s been a bumpy start for first-year coach Dan Campbell who has his injury-decimated team showing flashes of good play but not nearly enough for a win.

Minnesota is typically a tough place to play but the Vikings (1-3) are coming off a 14-7 home loss to Cleveland. Still the Vikings are 10-point favorites.

A win would not fix everything for the Lions, but it certainly would help. 

“(A win) helps you get going. It helps you jump out of bed maybe a little bit better. And so, yeah, it does. That’s what this is about is getting that first win for us and getting a win. But at the end of the day, no matter what happens, you’ve got to put your best foot forward and we’ve got to go back to work no matter what,’’ Campbell said. “You’ve got to go back to work and find a way to improve. And you guys get tired of hearing me say this, but we are in a race to improve and it’s got to be that way every day, every week, every game.”

Five things to watch as the Lions face the Vikings:

1. Somehow going into Minnesota Campbell has been able to keep up the morale of this young squad.: “Morale’s been good. I mean, these guys did exactly what they needed to do was, ‘Let’s go back to work.’ And that’s a credit to the guys on this team, but I think even more importantly our veteran leadership. I think it’s all about – here’s what we know, you’ll never correct a problem if we don’t go back to work and those guys did that. That’s the first step and at least gives you a shot, so they have. It was up, the energy was up. We’ve had quite a few competitive periods. We try to mix them in every week, but I think we’ve had really more of them than we’ve done in a while just to – un-scouted looks, O versus D, critical fourth-and-2, third-and-2, red zone – we’ll have another red zone today and just dial it up and see who wins. And so, it’s been good. The energy’s been good and there again, it’s not about the energy, it’s about those little details that make you or break you in a game.”

2.  In terms of injuries, the good news is that tight end T.J. Hockenson (knee) and tackle Penei Sewell (ankle) have a chance to play on Sunday. Both had limited practice on Friday. DE Michael Brockers (shoulder) is expected to return. RB D’Andre Swift (groin), RB Jamaal Williams (hip) and OLB Trey Flowers (knee) are all listed as questionable. The Lions needed a pretty healthy team to have a chance at some wins and they definitely do not have that. Taylor Decker (hand) is still not ready and Romeo Okwara (Achilles) was the 12th player placed on injured reserve. Frank Ragnow was the 11th.

3. Much of the Vikings’ defensive game plan is built around their pass rush so it helps Minnesota that defensive end Danielle Hunter returns from injury. “Look, he’s an element that they need and I think he’s one of those pieces that makes them pretty dangerous because he’s one of those D-ends that I think plays the run as good as anybody and he’s an excellent pass rusher, too. So, he can transition from run to rush very quickly and run action stuff and he’s long. He’s a heck of an athlete, high motor, so it’s helped them,’’ Campbell said. This makes it much tougher on the Lions makeshift  offensive line which is missing Decker (hand) and Ragnow (turf toe). Good thing it looks like Sewell will be ready to go. Evan Brown will likely step in again at center.

4. So without key pieces, Campbell is putting together an offensive game plan that hopefully plays to their strengths.  “We’ve gone back and tried to really look at what we think we do well. We’re four weeks in now. ‘What do our guys do well? Knowing what we have up front moving forward and what they have, how do we help?’ So, the plan is catered that way somewhat and there again, we’ve got to play complementary football,’’ Campbell said. “We can’t get in one of these – like we’ve been, we can’t get in one of these, ‘We’re down and we’re in two-minute mode and we’re having to throw it every play and they know it, we know it.’ That doesn’t serve us well all of the time.” Actually, most of the time.

5. In the four losses, giving up chunk plays of 20 yards or longer has been a killer for Detroit’s defense. The cornerback crew is decimated with Jeff Okudah and Ifeatu Melifonwu on injured reserve, but the others have to step up. “That’s the one area that we’ve got to look at, and as coaches, too. ‘How do we get these guys in situations to where they’re not giving up these big plays?’ I was always told by Bill Parcells, ‘How many times do we’ve got to get hit in the face with a skunk before you smell it?’ And that’s a true statement,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “So, we have to do something also to be able to help these guys and we have done some things now, for the player and coach. The players have got to execute, the coach has got to put them in positions to where they can execute and be at their best.”  Sounds like a plan.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Lions 17.

Five keys to the Detroit Lions’ 37-35 loss to the Vikings

DETROIT — In one of the strangest seasons in NFL history thanks in part to the COVID pandemic, it’s finally over for the Detroit Lions.

They put an exclamation mark on a frustrating season with a 37-35 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field. The Lions finished 5-11 with just one home win.

The defense, which has struggled all season, set franchise records for the most points and yards given up in a season. They were worse than the winless 2008 team. Think about it.

Interim coach Darrell Bevell took over for the final five games (one he spent at home due to COVID protocol) and while the team seemed more energized the wins did not come. 

“I’ve told these guys how much I love this game, how much I respect it. I think it says a lot in situations you guys might say is meaningless but there’s a lot of history in this game, there’s a lot of people who have been on the field before us,’’ Bevell said. “To go out and to play continually for one another as hard as they did the whole game long I think it speaks a lot for these guys.’’

Five of the keys in the game.

1. Quarterback Kirk Cousins played like Aaron Rodgers thanks to the Detroit defense. He threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns. And the Vikings were missing running back Dalvin Cook.Still they were able to run up the yards against Detroit’s porous defense.

2. The loss was by two points so every play mattered. Early in the fourth on fourth-and-goal on Detroit’s 1-yard-line, Tracy Walker broke through and sacked Cousins. Well, that’s what it looked like. However referee Adrian Hill blew the whistle and called it roughing the passer. That gave the Vikings a new set of downs and they scored on a Cousins keeper two plays later. After the game, Hill told the pool reporter (which is me): “By rule, one of the categories for roughing the passer is full body weight, where the tackler lands with his full body weight on the quarterback. That’s the category this play fell into. The momentum doesn’t play a role and the rolling off afterwards does not play a role. It’s that initial contact to the ground. If you roll off afterwards, that doesn’t eliminate the foul.” … Bevell said he was told on the sidelines that it was because of body weight, but the coach said he’d like to get another look at the replay.

3. Matthew Stafford had a solid game but his one interception was costly. He finished 20 of 31 for 293 yards and three touchdowns. He was playing with a bad pack, ribs and injured thumb. Yet, he was out there and there wasn’t really much doubt that he’d be on the field despite limited practices. “It’s a cool relationship to have with the quarterback,’’ Bevell said. “I really appreciate what he did. The guy’s out there, not 100 percent, he’s fighting for his teammates. He talked to the team last night about respect for the game, the history, the guys who came before us. The guy is laying everything on the line in a game that he doesn’t need to. I think that says a lot about him as a person, as a quarterback, what he means to the team.’’

4. With two touchdown catches Marvin Jones Jr., became the third leading wide receiver in all of franchise history. He finished with 36 touchdowns in Detroit (he has 50 overall in the NFL) which places him behind Calvin Johhson (83) and Herman Moore (62). He had eight catches for 180 yards and another touchdown that was reversed on a challenge. “Marv was hot early and I was going to keep feeding him. Obviously I wish that third touchdown I thought it was a great catch, i’m not sure it hit the ground,’’ Stafford said. “Maybe there’s a better view. We didn’t have a good one in the stadium. I’m really happy for him. He’s been a really good player for us for 5 years and I’ve enjoyed playing with him. The guy’s an incredible talent obviously, a great, great friend of mine and a great teammate. I’m just happy he had a big day.’’ Jones will be a free agent heading into next season so it’s unclear if he will return.

5. Bevell was handed a tough task after Patricia was fired. He handled it with grace and passion. His love for the game is obvious. “I was extremely proud of the way he stepped into that situation, it’s a tough one. It’s a tough year to be a coach in the NFL with all the extra COVID stuff going on, all the regulations, I thought he did an outstanding job. He’s a hack of a person and everybody got to realize that,’’ Stafford said. … “He’s a great person, a great coach, I was just really happy he got the opportunity and I think everybody in our locker room really rallied around him which was awesome. I want to win more football games than we did but I thought he stepped in and did a great job.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)