After shaking off a slow start and managing to steady themselves at 4-4, the Detroit Lions headed to Minneapolis for a critical November showdown with the 5-4 Minnesota Vikings. The contest would prove to be a defining moment for both teams, and a sign of things to come each way.
Either Detroit or Minnesota would leave the Metrodome with a solid record following a win, and the loser would face a long road the rest of the season towards climbing back up the NFC North. Without Percy Harvin, Minnesota was dealt what seemed to be a crushing blow before the game even began.
As was the case much of 2012, though, the Lions got off to the worst start imaginable. After failing to score or put together a meaningful drive right off the bat, the Vikings took the ball down the field and ironically used Harvin's replacement, Jarius Wright, to net them seven points. Following a Matthew Stafford interception, Detroit was down 10 heading into the second quarter.
Jason Hanson got the Lions on the board in that frame, but Blair Walsh answered with another field goal to preserve the Vikings' 10 point advantage. Penalties and mishaps then doomed Detroit, and Antoine Winfield nearly struck a huge blow before halftime with a defensive touchdown. The play was overturned and the
The second half is where the biggest trouble manifested itself. After another Minnesota field goal, Detroit scored their first touchdown of the game, cutting the lead to 16-10. For some reason, Jim Schwartz then elected to pooch the ball short to the Minnesota 30 yard line on the kickoff. Predictably, the Vikings took advantage of the short field blunder, getting Kyle Rudolph loose for a momentum changing score. A two point conversion later, Minnesota commandingly led 24-10
The Lions managed to respond to that, grabbing a nice drive and touchdown from Titus Young, but the Vikings took the game over with a huge Peterson touchdown run. Detroit failed to mount a quality offensive charge the rest of the way until the bitter end, and were outgunned by the final score of 34-24, leaving the Twin Cities looking for answers.
As was also the case in 2012, it didn't have to end up that way. To have success, the Detroit coaching staff doesn't need to over think things like they did in the second game against the Vikings. Hanson's short kickoff after a touchdown did more to harm momentum than promote it, and the Lions were quickly playing from further behind against a hot offense. The chances of a sudden change in that scenario benefiting the Lions were not wonderful, and it must be up to Schwartz to learn his lesson from this mistake. As a coach, you don't always have to be a hero with trickery to win a game.
In the aftermath of this very close contest, Detroit still seemed to be on the right track towards breaking through. Nobody could have figured at the time that the Lions wouldn't win another game the rest of the season and the Vikings, once in disarray, would be the team inching into the playoffs. It was a Detroit downturn caused in part by bad offense, bad coaching and a poor mental approach in the first NFC North "showdown game" of the year.
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