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Vikings show they can rally

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings failed to execute their “start fast” mantra, but they sure proved they can take an early punch or two and still win a game on the road.

Spotting the Detroit Lions 14 points after their two opening drives, the Vikings dominated over the final 47 minutes en route to a 28-19 victory that sends them to Chicago next week with a 4-2 record and hope of beating the Bears on the road for the first time since 2007.

“We have to realize we’re a good team and keep this momentum going,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “We’re 4-2 for a reason. When our numbers are called, we have the guys who can dominate.”

The Vikings are 3-8 on the road under coach Mike Zimmer. They went into Ford Field with a 1-14-1 record in their last 16 division road games dating back to the 2009 season.

“It doesn’t matter where you play,” Zimmer said Sunday. “It’s how you play.”

When the Vikings trailed 14-3, Detroit had run 11 plays for 155 yards. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was 6-for-6 for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

But everything changed on Detroit’s third series when linebacker Chad Greenway sacked Stafford on second down. It would be the first of seven times the Vikings would sack Stafford. Griffen, who missed last week’s game because of a last-minute illness, returned and had 1 1/2 sacks. Rookie middle linebacker Eric Kendricks had two sacks, giving him four in the past three games.

Others with sacks were safety Harrison Smith, defensive tackle Tom Johnson, who started in place of the injured Sharrif Floyd, and linebacker Anthony Barr, who had half a sack. Add them up and you know why the Lions converted only one of 10 third downs.

After their first two possessions, the Lions mustered only 9 yards of offense in their next seven possessions. And their only points were on a field goal that was set up by a fumble near midfield.

Offensively, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was poised under heavy pressure and outstanding during a turnover-free game. He threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns and had a 118.3 passer rating.

Rookie receiver Stefon Diggs followed up his sensational game against the Chiefs with another 100-yard performance (108) that included the first touchdown in a career that now spans only three games. He added a highlight catch as Diggs tracked down an overthrown ball by diving from the 4-yard line to make a fingertip grab a yard into the end zone.

The Vikings, who came in ranked 30th in offense (305.6), had a season-high 425 yards and produced points on seven of their first eight possessions. Kicker Blair Walsh, who missed three field goals at Detroit a year ago, made all five of his field goals, including two from beyond 50 yards.

“It was great as an offense to get going,” said Bridgewater, who threw two costly interceptions in last year’s 16-14 loss at Detroit.

It was encouraging. But the Vikings must sustain it starting next week in Chicago if they intend to keep pace with the undefeated Packers in the NFC North.

REPORT CARD VS. LIONS

–PASSING OFFENSE: A. Despite being sacked four times and pressured throughout most of the game, Teddy Bridgewater completed 25 of 35 passes for 316 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 118.3 passer rating. Bridgewater spread the ball to 11 different targets and would have had at least another completion and 30 more yards had Jarius Wright not dropped a perfectly thrown ball. Rookie Stefon Diggs had his second straight 100-yard game in just his third NFL game. He also scored his first NFL touchdown when he dived from the 4-yard line into the end zone to make a fingertip grab of an overthrown ball.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C. Running back Adrian Peterson did break off a 75-yard run down to the 3-yard line, but he had only 23 yards on his other 18 carries. The Vikings also couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone after Peterson’s run down to the 3. Diggs ran for 9 yards on a nice end-around on first down. Jerick McKinnon finally saw some significant action with nine carries while helping the team keep Peterson fresh. Peterson and Bridgewater botched a handoff exchange that resulted in a fumble that the Lions recovered at the Vikings’ 42-yard line. Detroit needed only 8 yards from there to kick a field goal.

–PASS DEFENSE: A minus. It was an ugly start. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford went 6-for-6 for 119 yards and two touchdowns on Detroit’s first two possessions. But it also was a beautiful finish. After his perfect first quarter, Stafford went 12-for-20 for 137 yards while being sacked seven times in nine possessions. In the seven possessions that followed Detroit’s hot start, the Lions mustered only 9 total yards of offense. Overall, the Lions converted only one of 11 third downs. Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks had two sacks while right end Everson Griffen, who missed last week’s game because of a last-minute illness, had 1 1/2 sacks.

–RUN DEFENSE: B. The Lions did average 4.5 yards per carry, but they ran the ball only 17 times. The Vikings gave up runs of 13 and 14 yards, but weren’t gashed by the run. That had been a problem during road losses at San Francisco and Denver. The Vikings also stuffed the Lions’ running game twice from the Minnesota 1-yard line during a late fourth-quarter goal-line stand.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Blair Walsh, who missed three field goals in last year’s two-point loss to the Lions in Detroit, made all five field-goal attempts, including two from beyond 50 yards. But he also missed his second 33-yard PAT of the season, pushing it wide right. Punter Jeff Locke punted only two times, averaging 45 yards with a long of 50 and one inside the 20-yard line. The coverage units were solid again.

–COACHING: B. Before they dominated, the Vikings were dominated. Detroit had the better scripted plays to start the game, opening with touchdown drives of 75 and 80 yards. But after those 11 snaps, the Vikings made adjustments that switched the game around entirely. Coach Mike Zimmer brought extra pressure that overwhelmed the Lions with seven sacks. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner took advantage of Detroit’s crowded front with a passing game that spread the ball around to 11 different players as Bridgewater surpassed 300 yards with a 118.3 passer rating.


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