The Lions kick off their second half Sunday against division rival Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean there’s suddenly more urgency in the locker room. If there was some magic intensity lever, the Lions (4-4) pulled it to full throttle weeks ago.
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The Lions playoff hopes just took a major hit.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had 27 carries for 171 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the Lions out of reach in a 34-24 loss at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis.
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had 12 catches for 207 yards and a late touchdown, but lost a fumble in the fourth quarter that led to a Vikings field goal.
The Lions (4-5) struggled mightily on offense in the first half and produced just 115 yards. They Lions trailed 13-3 at the break and failed to convert any of their first six third downs, finishing 1 of 9 for the game. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was just 12 of 20 for 97 yards and an interception through two quarters.
The Lions offense finally woke up toward the end of the third quarter and scored their first touchdown on a four-play, 86-yard drive. A 50-yard pass to Johnson put them in the red zone, and Stafford hit tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a 16-yard touchdown two plays later to cut the lead to 16-10 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
But just when the offense came alive, the Lions defense allowed an easy scoring drive, capped by a 20-yard touchdown catch by Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. Peterson ran in the two-point conversion to give Minnesota a 24-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Lions answered with a one-yard touchdown pass to Titus Young, but Peterson scored his long touchdown run on the next drive to make it 31-17 with just 8:06 left.
The Vikings added a field goal with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter after recovering Johnson’s fumble to make it 34-17. Johnson caught an 11-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-24, but there was only 1:53 remaining.
Stafford finished 28 of 42 for 329 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was 24 of 32 for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions remain in last place in the NFC North and were swept by the Vikings this season. The loss could sting more as Minnesota (6-4) will be one of its top competitors in the wild card race.
Lions cornerback Chris Houston left the game with an ankle injury, and defensive end Cliff Avril left with a concussion.
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught an 11-yard touchdown to cut the Vikings lead to 34-24, but there was only 1:53 left in the fourth quarter.
The Lions tried to recover an onside kick, but kicked it deep and weren’t close to recovering. They have two time outs remaining, but it looks like they’ll fall to 4-5.
Turnovers are always costly, but they sting a bit more when a team is down 14 in the fourth quarter.
Calvin Johnson lost a fumble to give the Vikings the ball in Lions territory.
Minnesota quickly added to their lead with a 33-yard field goal by Blair Walsh and lead the Lions 34-17 with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter.
One of the best stories in the NFL has been Adrian Peterson’s return from ACL and MCL surgery last December.
He just showed the Lions that he’s completely healthy, scoring on a 61-yard touchdown run to give the Vikings a 31-17 lead with 8:06 left in the fourth quarter.
The Lions have been moving well on offense, but they’re racing against the clock now.
The Lions aren’t going down without a fight.
In just 2:43, they drove 80 yards in 2:43 and scored on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Titus Young.
The score cut the Vikings’ lead to 24-17 with 11:32 remaining.
Calvin Johnson caught a 25-yard pass that moved the Lions to the 1 and set up the score.
Just when the Lions’ offense woke up, their defense allowed an easy Vikings touchdown.
Minnesota scored on a 20-yard pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph then Adrian Peterson ran in the two-point conversion, and the Vikings lead 24-10 with 14:15 left in the game.
Rudolph broke a tackle attempt by Ricardo Silva, and a Vikings receiver blocked Jacob Lacey to give him a clear path to the end zone.
The Lions lead the NFL with 104 points in the fourth quarter, but this deficit might be too big.
The Lions found some offense.
It took them just four plays to drive 81 yards for a touchdown to cut the Vikings lead to 16-10 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
Matthew Stafford threw passes of 20 and 50 yards to Calvin Johnson to move them into the red zone.
After a botched shotgun snap cost the Lions five yards on first down, Stafford hit tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a 16-yard touchdown.
There’s still time for a comeback, and drives like that will certainly give the Lions a better chance.
Little victories, right?
The Vikings had first and goal from the 3, but the Lions held them to a 23-yard field goal.
Minnesota moved close to the end zone thanks to a 31-yard catch by receiver Devin Aromashodu.
The Lions trail 16-3 with 5:11 in the third quarter, so two touchdowns would put them in front. But based on how they’re playing on offense, scoring one touchdown is a hard enough task.
Well, the Lions didn’t solve any offensive problems on their first drive of the second half.
After forcing a Vikings punt to start the third quarter, the Lions offense had a three-and-out and had to punt it back.
The Lions trail 13-3 with 1004 left in the third quarter and need to start taking more shots down the field.
A few things keyed the Lions’ past two victories.
They converted third downs at a high rate, avoided defensive lapses and converted touchdowns instead of field goals.
So far against the Vikings, the Lions haven’t mirrored that success at all. They finished the first half 0 for 6 on third down and only scored a field goal on their one red-zone drive.
The Lions also allowed the Vikings to score a touchdown on their opening drive after a 54-yard pass to rookie Jarius Wright moved them to the 1.
The Lions and Vikings have had similar time of possession (Lions lead 15:31 to 14:29) and total yards (Vikings lead 152-115), but third downs and a Matthew Stafford interception have doomed the Lions so far.
Lions running back Mikel Leshoure had just 26 yards on 10 carries. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson had four catches for 36 yards. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was just 12 of 20 for 97 yards with an interception, giving him a 51.5 passer rating in the first half.
Down 13-3, the Lions are still within range of a comeback, but they’ll need to come out swinging in the third quarter.
An early problem is haunting the Lions today.
So far against the Vikings, they are 0 for 6 on third down and trail 13-3 with about a minute left in the first half.
The Lions hoped to score at the end of the half, but the Vikings sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford on, you guessed it, third down.
The Lions were fortunate to hold the Vikings to a field goal on their last drive, but Minnesota exploited gaping holes in the Lions’ defense.
Adrian Peterson had runs of 15, 14 and 15 yards on the drive. Quarterback Christian Ponder had a 20-yard run, and a 16-yard pass on play action to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
But once the Vikings reached the red zone, the Lions defense stood tall to force a 23-yard Blair Walsh field goal.
The Lions trail 13-3 with 4:41 left in the second quarter.
The Lions are on the board, but they probably would’ve rather had a touchdown.
Jason Hanson hit a 41-yard field goal to cut the Vikings lead to 10-3 with 11:07 remaining in the second quarter.
The Lions reached the red zone for the first time Sunday after a 23-yard completion to Calvin Johnson, but quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked on third down to force the field goal try.
So far, the Lions are playing more like the first four weeks of the season as opposed to the last four. The combination of defensive lapses and settling for field goals is tough to overcome.
So much for starting fast.
Less than 10 minutes into the first quarter, the Lions are in a 10-0 hole.
On the Lions second drive, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass to give Minnesota the ball at the Detroit 25.
Lions defensive end Cliff Avril dropped Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder for a 15-yard loss on first down, but Vikings kicker Blair Walsh connected on a 48-yard field goal.
With 5:41 left in the first quarter, the Lions are down 10-0.
Without Percy Harvin, the Vikings may have found another weapon to use against the Lions.
Rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright, active for the first time this season, beat Lions safety Erik Coleman for a 54-yard catch that put the Vikings on the 1.
Two plays later, the Vikings scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Wright to take an early 7-0 lead.
The Lions were moving the ball well on their first drive, but were forced to punt after failing to overcome a 15-yard illegal block penalty on wide receiver Ryan Broyles.
Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) won’t play Sunday against the Lions, which means Minnesota will have to rely on its B squad receivers.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, D squad might be a little more accurate — as in deficient.
Harvin’s 62 receptions are second in the NFL (Indy’s Reggie Wayne passed him Thursday), and he’s taken those receptions for 677 yards (10th in the league) and three touchdowns.
He has more than twice as many receptions and receiving yards as any other player on the Vikings. Harvin also leads the NFL with a 35.9-yard average on kickoff returns, and he has 22 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown this season.
The Vikings will start Michael Jenkins in Harvin’s place, but Jenkins has just 26 catches for 295 yards this season. They also have wide receivers Devin Aromashodu (10 catches for 151 yards), Jerome Simpson (eight catches for 109 yards) and rookie Jarius Wright, who is active for the first time.
In fact, their best pass catcher without Harvin is probably tight end Kyle Rudolph (27 catches for 242 yards and five touchdowns), but he has just two catches for 17 yards in the past three games.
Yes, the Lions are starting reserves Erik Coleman and Ricardo Silva as their safeties with Louis Delmas (knee) and Amari Spievey (concussion) out, but they have to like their matchup.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has thrown eight interceptions his past five games and posted quarterback ratings of 37.3, 74.8 and 35.5 the past three — and that was with Harvin playing.
The game plan for the Lions is pretty simple: Don’t let Adrian Peterson beat you.