Lions eclipse Justin Jefferson’s record performance, notching Vikings for 34-23 win

DETROIT — Completion after the improbable completion of an eventual 34-23 loss to the Lions, the final 20 minutes of Kirk Cousins ​​and Justin Jefferson’s most prolific game played together like the final act of a blockbuster Hollywood, each stunt in the service of a dramatic escape attempt.

The Cousins ​​threw a third-quarter pass for Jefferson as the Lions’ John Cominsky crashed into his left hip; Jefferson turned for the ball and evaded Amari Oruwariye for 34 yards. As the Vikings were down 15 points in the fourth quarter, Cousins ​​let one fly just before Isaiah Buggs crashed into his feet. Jefferson, running a deep route, caught him in stride for 47.

Jefferson broke Sammy White’s franchise record for receiving yards in a regular season game with 223. He could have finished with 255 had officials ruled he stayed within the confines of his most sublime connection. with Cousins: A 39-yard quarterback released under duress as Jefferson fought Jerry Jacobs.

Jefferson caught the underpass, slipped away from Jacobs and regained his footing along the right sideline, deflecting past the Jeff Okudah-Kerby Joseph collision ahead of him and prancing towards the end zone before an official don’t say he was out at Lions ’32.

Cousins’ 425 passing yards matched his most in a Vikings uniform. Jefferson broke the record set by White against the Lions 46 years ago. And for most of the second half at Ford Field, the Vikings trailed in double digits against a team that got its longest run of the day on a fake punt and its last first down of the day in throwing to his right tackle.

The Vikings will have to wait until at least Saturday against Indianapolis to clinch the NFC North, after their problems on Sunday proved too great for outstanding individual performances to be overcome.

Detroit became the fifth straight team to post at least 400 rushing yards against the Vikings, gaining 464 on a day Jared Goff was not fired. Goff completed 27 of 39 passes for 330 yards and three scores. The Lions were never behind, and after Dalvin Cook’s fumble against the Lions 3 cost the Vikings a chance to even the score late in the first half, Detroit pulled out in second.

“There were positive performances from some individual players and some things gave us a chance to be in the football game,” coach Kevin O’Connell said. “But overall not enough in the running game offensively and critical turnover in the red bottom [zone]. Defensively, they attacked us running and passing. We have to be better. If we’re going to earn the right to get our ticket to the playoffs, we’d definitely better have a playoff-worthy performance.”

The loss, O’Connell’s first in the NFC North, dropped Minnesota to 10-3. The Lions won for the fifth time in six games to improve to 6-7 and move within a game and a half of last place in the NFC playoffs.

The Vikings’ loss all but guaranteed they won’t get the NFC’s only first-round bye, now that the Eagles hold a two-game lead and a decisive advantage over them with four weeks remaining.

The Vikings opted for caution with three injured starters, sitting safety Harrison Smith, tackle Christian Darrisaw and center Garrett Bradbury. As the Lions sacked Cousins ​​three times, hit him on eight plays and stifled the Vikings’ run game, Goff got the better of the Vikings’ secondary with two long touchdowns.

On the first, he hit rookie Jameson Williams – selected 12th overall with the pick the Lions got from the Vikings – on offside deep ball action. A middle route from Josh Reynolds froze the Vikings secondary, allowing Williams to run down and make his first NFL 41-yard touchdown.

In the second quarter, the Lions took over at 48 from the Vikings after a 35-yard punt return from Kalif Raymond. They dialed in a deep pitch to DJ Chark against Cameron Dantzler in off coverage. The game turned into a sprint race, and Chark won it; he fired Goff’s throw with the cornerback reaching in vain, to make it 14-7 Lions.

The Vikings were in position to tie the score late in the first half, at the end of a long drive where Lions coach Dan Campbell curiously grabbed his three timeouts. The Vikings had a first and a 3 Lions goal with 1:06 to go in the first half when they brought in tackle Oli Udoh as an extra blocker, indicating they would try to kick the ball into the end zone for Cook. second touchdown of the day.

The play was actually supposed to be a return pass from Cook to tight end Johnny Mundt, an O’Connell and Cousins ​​said the team performed successfully in practice this week. In the game, the sleight of hand has become disastrousas defensive lineman Buggs stripped the ball from Cook and Joseph recovered it.

The Vikings went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half. It looked like they had forced a Lions stoppage as well, until Campbell decided to play from his own 26. He called for a fake punt, and safety CJ Moore took a straight snap from 42 meters.

“Huge, huge game,” O’Connell said. “A lot of respect for that, especially [Dave Fipp,] the [special teams] coordinator there. We knew at some point—it’s pretty well documented—that they were going to try to steal property. They were able to do that against us, which is a shame.”

It was easily the longest run of the day for either team, and it extended a drive that would end with Goff faking a throw before finding Josh Reynolds for a 5-yard touchdown pass against Bynum in coverage for a 21-7 lead.

Cousins ​​was sacked on the first play of the Vikings’ upcoming practice but ripped up field throws 21 yards for TJ Hockenson and 34 yards for Jefferson against pressure. On a fourth-and-4 of 23 from the Lions, the Vikings called a play that appeared to have Adam Thielen setting up a moving screen for Hockenson. But when Hockenson was covered, Cousins ​​found Thielen when the catcher raised his hand to cover Mike Hughes. His 23-yard touchdown reception brought the Vikings within eight, before the Lions stopped a two-point conversion attempt on a screen at Thielen.

Goff continued to dismantle the Vikings defense with breaking routes, leading Detroit to the Vikings’ 27 on the next drive when the Lions faced a third-and-8. The Vikings sent linebacker Brian Asamoah off the line of scrimmage as fourth rusher; Goff shot into space behind Asamoah for a 12-yard gain on running back Justin Jackson. Two plays later, Jackson scored on a 15-yard run to make it 28-13.

“We know it’s our execution that needs to improve,” Bynum said. “We know sometimes we can play with anyone, but if we fight you don’t win football games like that.”

Not even one of the most electrifying offensive performances in franchise history was enough on Sunday.

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