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3 things we learned about the Lions

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DETROIT — Usually, the head coach passes out game balls after an NFL victory. Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater reversed the process on Sunday after coach Mike Zimmer collected his first division win on the road.

“It meant a lot because we knew how important this game was, a divisional game,” Bridgewater said after the Vikings’ 28-19 triumph over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. “We always hear about us not doing well on the road and finishing games on the road. To be able to do so today, it feels pretty good.”

Zimmer took over prior to last season, but the Vikings hadn’t won an NFC North road game since they defeated Detroit in 2012.

Bridgewater played a large role in Zimmer’s breakthrough victory, passing for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater was intercepted twice and sacked four times when the Vikings lost at Detroit last season but completed 25-of-35 attempts without an interception on Sunday. Blair Walsh made five field goals after going 0-for-3 in Detroit last season.

Adrian Peterson gained 98 yards on 19 carries as the Vikings (4-2) downed their division rival for the second time in five games. Peterson was questionable entering the game after feeling ill on Saturday. Both Peterson and Zimmer refuted a report that Peterson swallowed chewing tobacco juice on a bumpy flight.

Minnesota rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings defense clamped down after allowing two first-quarter touchdowns and sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford seven times.

“That’s kind of the reason why we are where we are,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. “We just haven’t been able to sustain consistent play with one unit or the next. We’ll do some things very, very well for an extended period of time. All it takes is about five minutes in this league to turn things around.”

Stafford finished with 256 passing yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught five passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. The Lions (1-6), who entered the game with the league’s worst rushing attack, gained just 77 yards on 17 carries. Rookie Ameer Abdullah led the Lions with 43 yards on eight carries.

What we learned about the Lions:

1. Even with all their top running backs available, the Lions can’t run the ball. The Lions entered the game with a league-low 399 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. The futility continued as they rushed for 77 yards on 17 carries and didn’t score on the ground. Running back Joique Bell returned from an Achilles injury but had just three carries for 21 yards and caught two passes. Detroit not providing a running threat, the Vikings were able to tee off on Matthew Stafford and sack him seven times.

2. No matter who lines up at quarterback for the opposition, he’s guaranteed to have a big game. Minnesota’s second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for multiple touchdowns for the first time this season and completed 71.4 percent of his attempts. The Lions were allowing a whopping 73.7 completion percentage entering the game. Even with Bridgewater getting sacked four times, the Lions’ secondary and linebackers couldn’t cover Minnesota’s receivers and running backs, as 11 different players caught passes.

3. Eric Ebron may not be a bust after all. Ebron has been a major disappointment after being plucked in the first round of the 2014 draft, but the second-year tight end was impressive on Sunday. After missing two games with a knee injury, he hauled in five passes for 89 yards, including a 55-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. The Lions need Ebron to continue to provide an over-the-middle threat to ease the burden on wideouts Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

Etc.:

–WR Golden Tate had his most unproductive outing since joining the Lions prior to last season. He was targeted six times but caught just two passes for 14 yards. He had a two-catch game at Arizona last season but had 41 receiving yards. Tate caught 14 passes in Detroit’s previous two games and scored his first touchdown of the season. He’s averaging fewer that five receptions per game after catching 99 passes last season.

–CB Rashean Mathis was burned on a double move by the Vikings’ Stefon Diggs on Minnesota’s go-ahead score in the third quarter. It was a rough all-around day for the veteran cornerback. He committed an illegal contact penalty in the first half and left the game during the fourth quarter with a head injury. He was credited with seven tackles.

–QB Matthew Stafford had an X-ray on his left hand after he was injured in the second half. Stafford was confident there was no break in his non-throwing hand and said it didn’t appreciably affect his ability to pass. “Not too much,” he said. “I mean, it’s my left hand.” Stafford, who threw for over 400 yards against Chicago the previous Sunday, passed for 256 yards.


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