How Detroit Lions took advantage of Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson’s absence

Detroit Free Press

Anthony Lynn figured the Detroit Lions had a good chance to connect on the pass for a touchdown on the final play of last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, long before they lined up for the snap.

“We felt that way going into the game, absolutely,” Lynn said Thursday. “I don’t think Patrick Peterson would have played that far off, but, yeah.”

Peterson, a likely future Hall of Fame cornerback, was on the reserve/COVID-19 list for last week’s game, leaving the Vikings to start Cameron Dantzler and Bashaud Breeland at outside cornerback.

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Dantzler lined up about 10 yards off Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, near the 3-yard line, and dropped a couple yards deep in the end zone in coverage.

St. Brown ran a sit route just past the goal line and caught the winning touchdown pass from Jared Goff in front of Dantzler and Vikings safety Xavier Woods.

St. Brown said Sunday he was surprised at the cushion Dantzler, in his second NFL season, gave him in the end zone.

“It was actually crazy,” St. Brown said. “I think he was like 3 or 4 yards deep in the end zone, and shoot, I only needed to get a yard or a centimeter in to score. To see him so far off, I knew it was going to be a good play, I just didn’t know what was inside of me and as I broke in, I knew it was a big, big chance of it being a touchdown. Jared saw it and the rest is history.”

Lynn said he was proud of the offense’s late-game execution, going 75 yards in 14 plays with no timeouts. And he said the win itself was a major relief for the now-1-10-1 Lions.

“It was good,” Lynn said. “And I think you saw some emotions in the locker room. And it wasn’t that we thought we just won the Super Bowl. It was just, to get that monkey off our back and now that you know you can win, I’ll tell you, it’s been a long time coming. It was too long, in my opinion. But you saw a lot of emotions in the locker room after that. We just got to remember how that felt because we want to feel that way again.”

Trust fall

Goff completed two passes against the Vikings that traveled more than 20 air yards past the line of scrimmage, tying the season high he set in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears.

Lynn said getting Goff to take more chances in the deep passing game has been an emphasis in recent weeks. Goff ranks last in the NFL at 4 air yards per completion, but was second in the NFL (behind Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow) at 8.2 air yards per completion last week.

“I’ve said it, he’s a trust guy,” Lynn said. “If he trusts you, he will give you an opportunity. I think he’s starting to have more confidence in the people around him and I think you’re going to see more shots down the field because of that. And it’s intentional, now. We want to push the ball down the field some. It’s been taught in the classrooms, of pushing the ball down the field.”

Since mid-October, Goff has three deep completions: To Josh Reynolds, his former teammate with the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12; and to tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Brock Wright last week.

Asked how long it takes for quarterbacks to develop trust in their receivers, Lynn said, “It’s been, what, 12 games now, so it’s time. It’s time.”

“The timing of it, getting the ball out of your hands and not worrying about turning the ball over, just let it fly,” Lynn said. “All of those discussions we’ve had.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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