By Scott Taylor
For awhile it appeared as if the Detroit Lions might get the best of the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. After all, the Lions were coming off a big home win and the Vikings hadn’t won on the road within the division since 2012.
Then Teddy Bridgewater arrived, Blair Walsh kicked the ball straight, the Vikings defense woke up and Adrian Peterson broke a big one and suddenly the Vikings were in control.
Bridgewater completed 25-of-35 pass attempts for a season-high 316 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings beat the Lions 28-19 at Ford Field. He was only two yards short of setting a career high for passing yards.
He threw a one-yard TD pass to TE Kyle Rudolph and then a 36-yarder to rookie Stefon Diggs who made a spectacular catch and maintained his reputation as the hottest young receiver in the NFL.
Diggs finished with six receptions for 108 including that highlight-reel go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter that all but buried the Lions.
Peterson, who was stopped cold in the first half (at one point, he had 16 yards on 10 carries), finished with 98 yards on 19 carries including a season-long run of 75 yards that set up another Walsh field goal. The Vikings finished with 140 yards rushing while the Lions could muster only 77.
But none of that happened until the Lions made it look as if they’d blow the Vikings right out of the building. Detroit scored on its opening drive and then, after Walsh booted the first of five field goals, the Lions scored again to go ahead 14-3, but after that, it was all Vikings.
Although Detroit led 17-15 at the half, the Vikings defense went to work, sacked Matthew Stafford seven times (rookie LB Eric Kendricks had two sacks to go with six tackles) and completely dominated a Detroit offence that turned out to be somewhat embarrassing for the final 45 minutes.
The Vikings won their first NFC North road game in three years and improved to 4-2 on the season. The Lions fell to 1-6 and head coach Jim Caldwell might be the next NFL coach to get the dreaded pink slip.
It’s almost shocking what happened to the Lions offence after the first two drives. Stafford spent most of the rest of the game glued to the Ford Field turf. He was hit, hassled, hurried and hammered and finished 18 of 26 for 256 yards with those two first-quarter TDs. In Detroit, the roar has not been restored.
However, in Minnesota, the 2015 season has become promising. After a season-high seven sacks and another brilliant game by rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison (Hitman Harry) Smith, Mike Zimmer’s defense appears to be formidable. It’s the second time this season, the Vikings beat the Lions, but by beating them on the road, they got a huge baboon off their backs.
The Vikings head back out onto the road to face Chicago next Sunday and then they get the Rams at home before going back out onto the road to meet the Oakland Raiders. They have a legitimate chance to be 7-2 when the Green Bay Packers show up at TCF Bank Stadium on Nov. 22.
As long as Teddy, AP, the improving receiving corps and the defense continue to play well, that little problem they have with a porous offensive line might not cripple their season.
Then again, we’ll find out quickly enough. The Bears and Rams are certainly beatable and there is no reason to believe that the Vikings can’t be in an enviable position before they face Green Bay (home), Atlanta (road), Seattle (home) and Arizona (road) in the toughest four-game stretch of the season.