Lions can’t handle Vikings’ Dalvin Cook, slide to last in NFC North

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

Minneapolis — As Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford disappeared from view, headed up the tunnel to be tested for a concussion, Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook burst through the Lions defense, galloping the length of the field for a 70-yard score. 

Worse yet, the Lions only had 10 defenders on the field, one week after making the egregious mistake twice in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. 

That moment summarized the Lions day, and in many ways the season, as the team returned to the familiar confines of the NFC North basement on Sunday, getting stomped by the Vikings, 34-20. 

From the start, the Lions had little answer for the Vikings offense, led by Cook, who finished with a career-high 206 yards on the ground and 252 yards from scrimmage. 

Minnesota scored on nearly identical touchdown drives to open the game, jumping out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Foreshadowing his big day, Cook carried the ball three times on each series, gaining 48 total yards. That included a 4-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.

BOX SCORE: Vikings 34, Lions 20

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins also got off to a hot start, completing all four of his passes for 83 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown to tight end Irv Smith Jr. 

Sandwiched  between Minnesota’s scoring drives, Lions kicker Matt Prater missed a 47-yard field goal wide left. It was his third miss on his past four attempts and his sixth miss of the season. 

The Lions managed to get on the board early in the second quarter, but instead of a touchdown they were forced to settle for a short Prater field goal after running back Adrian Peterson was stuffed for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-goal carry from the 1-yard line. 

Detroit managed to cut the deficit to three late in the first half when Matthew Stafford connected with Marvin Jones for a 15-yard score. Jones caught the short pass at the 9-yard line and spun free from the grasp of cornerback Kris Boyd before crossing the goal line. 

Unfortunately, the defense couldn’t keep things close before the break, allowing Minnesota to drive 87 yards in 64 seconds. Cook again provided much of the damage, gaining 47 yards on a carry and two catches. But it was former Lions running back Ameer Abdullah who put the finishing touches on the drive, scooting into the end zone on a 22-yard screen pass to make it 20-10 at the half. 

After the two teams traded punts coming out of the locker room, the Vikings extended their advantage to three scores midway through the third quarter. 

Cousins connected with rookie receiver Justin Jefferson over the coverage of cornerback Amani Oruwariye for a 35-yard gain on third down to extend the drive. Four plays later, Oruwariye was flagged for a defensive pass interference penalty against Jefferson, setting the Vikings up first-and-goal from the 3. 

It took Minnesota three cracks to get it in, but did so when Cousins found Irv Smith Jr. out of play action for the tight end’s second score of the day. 

The Lions attempted to respond, driving into the red zone, but Stafford threw a ball directly to Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson, ending the threat.

Detroit’s defense managed to come up with a rare, quick stop, and Austin Bryant blocked the punt, putting the offense right back in business. But with third-and-goal from the 5, Stafford was picked again. This time it was linebacker Eric Kendricks undercutting a throw intended for tight end T.J. Hockenson in the end zone. 

Stafford, who was cleared of a concussion following the game, was hurt on the ensuing possession when he caught a knee to the head while being sacked. Still the Lions managed a 45-yard field goal on the possession, making it 27-13 with 11 minutes remaining. 

But the Vikings needed just one play to put the game away. Bursting through a hole up the middle, Cook plowed through a tackle attempt and through the Lions secondary for his second touchdown of the day.

With the way Cook was running, having an 11th defender on the field might not have mattered. 

Detroit managed to trim the deficit back to 14 after a second blocked punt — this one by Romeo Okwara — gave the offense the ball at the 2-yard line. Chase Daniel, who took over for Stafford, connected with Hockenson on the first play after the block for the score, cutting the Vikings lead to 34-20 with 6:58 remaining.

Before he left the game, Stafford was 23-of-32 for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Cousins, the former Michigan State standout from Holland, was 13-of-20 for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He threw no interceptions.

With the loss, the Lions fall to 3-5 on the season, while the Vikings, winners of two straight, climbed to the same record.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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