Vikings at Lions score: Kirk Cousins throws four TDs as Minnesota rolls past Detroit, winning third straight
Dalvin Cook also ran for more than 140 yards in a back-and-forth game at Ford Field
The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings came into Week 7 moving in opposite directions amid a crowded NFC North race, and they continued on their respective paths during a high-scoring clash at Ford Field on Sunday, with the Vikings running away with a 42-30 victory to improve to 5-2 and send Detroit below .500.
Both sides did their best to make up ground in the North early in the divisional showdown, trading long drives and leads as Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford combined for eight touchdown passes and a whole lot of methodical movement downfield. Three-and-outs and defensive stands were few and far between, but when they emerged, they were mostly courtesy of Mike Zimmer's unit. A huge day from Dalvin Cook on the ground, plus a late pick by Trae Waynes, helped seal Minnesota's victory, which got some serious cushion in the fourth quarter thanks to more Cousins efficiency and some big plays from tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Let's take a deeper dive into how the Vikings took care of business on Sunday:
Why the Vikings won
For the third week in a row, Kirk Cousins (337 yards, 4 TDs) was absolutely on fire. It's not as if he was lighting it up with deep balls a la Week 6's Eagles rout, but he did everything he needed to do in Kevin Stefanski's play-action attack, executing methodical drive after methodical drive to keep pace with Detroit and then eventually push the Vikings ahead and milk the clock. If not for a late Stefon Diggs drop, in fact, he would've finished with five TDs. A quiet but monumental dose of Dalvin Cook (142 yards), who broke loose more as the game wore on, helped balance the offense sans an injured Adam Thielen, and while the Vikings' defense surrendered too many chunk plays to Detroit, particularly in the first half, it also stood tall when it needed to later in the game, logging several stands -- including a fourth-down pass breakup -- to deny Stafford and Co. a comeback.
Why the Lions lost
It wasn't for lack of offensive production, at least from a big-picture perspective. Stafford (364 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT) was neck and neck with Cousins in terms of production for much of the day, opening with three TD passes and zero picks, leading an offense that lacked any consistent rushing attack and finding Danny Amendola, Marvin Hall and Marvin Jones for some big drive-extending plays. When it came down to the wire, however, he failed to overcome pressure from the Vikings' front four, either succumbing to rushes from Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen as a result of poor blocking or holding the ball too long. Penalties were just as big of an issue, though, and defensively, Detroit was even more at fault, though Matt Patricia could justifiably shift some of that blame to injuries. With Darius Slay and Damon Harrison sidelined for parts or most of the game, the Lions simply could not stop the Cousins-led machine enough, surrendering a back-breaking, wide-open Kyle Rudolph score in the fourth to seal their own fate.
In a true back-and-forth, this game wasn't fully decided until the closing minutes. But when Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks swatted down Stafford's fourth-and-two pass inside Minnesota territory with 8:58 to play, the Lions' chances of a comeback took a huge hit. At that point, the Vikes were still up by just four points, and Stafford had just hit Amendola for a 16-yard gain over the middle, threatening to put Detroit in position for another lead.
Play of the game
It came long before both sides started trading touchdowns, and its star player exited with a hamstring injury as a result of it. But Thielen's athletic 25-yard score was probably the most exciting highlight of a showdown mostly full of steady, short-route drives. With Detroit on the board after Stafford's first of three TD passes to Jones, Cousins put perfect touch on a loft to the back of the end zone while on the move after a play-action roll-out, and Thielen somehow managed to drag both feet in-bounds to even up the score.
"He's playing very free right now, he's letting the ball loose, even on some of the incompletions, he's putting the ball in a good place ... He's playing the best I've seen him play since I've been here, obviously. It's a credit to him ... and I feel like we're playing to his strength."
Those words from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer pretty much sum up the day, not to mention Minnesota's three-game win streak. Weeks after Cousins was widely ridiculed for his performance in a loss to the Chicago Bears, he looks like the glue that's holding this offense together.
The Vikings (5-2) will be back on the field in just four days thanks to their "Thursday Night Football" matchup with the Washington Redskins (1-6) at home. The Lions (2-3-1), meanwhile, will play their second straight game at Ford Field on Sunday, Oct. 27, when they host the New York Giants (2-5) at 1 p.m. ET.
Relive all the action from Sunday's showdown right here:
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And that's it, for real. Some pushing and shoving during kneel-downs draws a penalty, but Vikings are going to win this, 42-20. They improve to 5-2, keeping pace with the Packers atop the North. The Lions, meanwhile, fall again, dropping below .500 to 2-3-1.
Trae Waynes picks off a deep Stafford pass to seal this.
That's it, folks. (Unofficially.) Vikings now up 42-30 after Cook's insurance-policy TD. Stafford and the Lions will make a go at an incredulous comeback from their own 25, though.
We're now at the two-minute warning. Lions have two timeouts left, but Minnesota threatening to score again and put this away.
Holy. Cow. A beautiful play-action pass is called, and Cousins unloads a floater to Diggs, who hauls it in and races all the way inside the red zone. That, my friends, is offensive genius.
Cook gets the hand-off up the middle, and the Lions use their first timeout right away.
For Cousins and the Vikings, now would be the time to execute another run/play-action drive well.
3:05 left. Lions still have all three timeouts, plus the two-minute warning. This game is far from over.
Lions go for two after the Jones TD to try to make it a three-point game, and Stafford fits the ball into Golladay's hands on a quick strike to the left, but Mike Hughes punches the ball out short of the goal line to keep Minnesota ahead 35-30.
Marvin. Jones. The receiver makes his fourth TD catch of the day to pull Detroit within five points. Adjusted away from Xavier Rhodes once again.
Detroit down inside the red zone after another deep strike from Stafford to Marvin Jones. First-and-goal Lions.
Lions move to the 30 after a Marvin Jones catch. Clock ticking but Detroit is moving pretty quickly.
Stafford just slinging it now -- sidearming, firing, whatever he can do to get the ball downfield. In Vikings territory with 4:26 left.
Stafford and Co. will have 5:40 to answer and try to make up an 11-point deficit.
And that might be the nail in the coffin. Dalvin Cook carries the ball deep into Detroit territory, then Cousins finds a wide-open Rudolph over the middle for another score. That makes four TD passes for Cousins and a 35-24 lead for Minnesota.
Cousins bullets one to Irv Smith on another play-action throw. He has been the steady hand in this Vikings offense thus far. Minnesota can now try to milk some clock, driving from midfield with eight minutes left.