Winless no more: Lions top Vikes 29-27 for 1st W in Week 13
By LARRY LAGE
DETROIT (AP) Jared Goff dropped back, looked left and let the football loose that Amon-Ra St. Brown squeezed tight as he sat in the end zone.
That set off a roar in Ford Field loud enough it might've been heard on Motor City streets.
Detroit finally found a way when Goff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown as time expired, lifting the previously winless Lions to a 29-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
"It feels good to stand in front of you now," Goff said to reporters before answering a question.
Not only was the finish dramatic, it was stunning.
Goff led the Lions on a 75-yard decisive possession without a timeout after Kirk Cousins threw a go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson with 1:50 left. The Vikings failed on a 2-point conversion for the third time, and those missed opportunities proved costly.
Goff threw two touchdown passes in the first half to put Detroit ahead by 14 points, its biggest lead this season. Then he turned over the ball twice in the second half to help Minnesota rally.
He came through in the end, leading the long drive and delivering a sharp pass without pressure against a three-man rush to a rookie receiver, who took advantage of the Vikings secondary playing too deep in the end zone.
"It was actually crazy," St. Brown said. "They were 3 or 4 yards in the end zone."
The Lions (1-10-1) ended a 15-game winless streak that lasted 364 days since winning at Chicago last season, giving first-year coach Dan Campbell his first victory with the franchise.
"You want this so bad for the players because they're the ones who put in all the hard work, the sweat, the tears," Campbell said. "When you lose, it hurts, but it's also why winning is so great, because it isn't easy to do."
The Vikings (5-7) hurt their chances of earning a wild-card spot in the playoffs by losing a game they were favored to win by a touchdown.
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer defended the decision to drop eight defenders on the final snap, but lamented that the secondary didn't follow the plan on the play.
"We weren't covering very well, so we felt we needed to get more guys into coverage," he said.
Minnesota has the dubious distinction of being the first team Detroit beat this year because it missed chances to score more often, and allowed an offensively challenged team to score more than 17 points for the first time since Week 1.
The Vikings, perhaps lulled to sleep in the first half by the Lions' gray "Color Rush" alternate uniforms that looked like pajamas, woke up with 16 points in the first 18 minutes after halftime.
Red-zone woes, though, will haunt them when they look back at how they let the Lions win. Minnesota had the ball inside the Detroit 20 twice in the first quarter, settling for field goals and a 6-0 lead, and kicked another field goal in the third after a drive stalled at the Lions 12.
"We came out pretty slow and when we did get into the red zone, we only came away with three," Jefferson said.
Goff finished 25 of 41 for 296 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He fumbled when Campbell chose to go on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 28 with 4:08 left and the play-action pass didn't fool the defense.
"I felt like I needed to be aggressive," Campbell said.
Goff, drafted No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, had lost 12 straight starts for the longest skid for a quarterback taken first in the common draft era that started in 1967.
St. Brown had 10 receptions for 86 yards - and the winning touchdown was his first NFL score, ending Detroit's nine-game home losing streak dating to last year.
Cousins was 30 of 40 for 340 yards with two touchdowns and a fumble. Jefferson had 11 receptions for a career-high 182 yards, taking advantage of an increased role when Adam Thielen was injured early in the game.
"It's obviously a tough loss, and I'm going to think about it for years," Cousins said.
The Lions and Vikings paid tribute to the victims of Tuesday's school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, by wearing a gold "O" on the back of their helmets.
The tragedy took the lives of four high school students, including Tate Myre, a standout football player and wrestler.
Campbell dedicated the game ball to the Oxford community after the game.
The Vikings' eight-point loss last week at San Francisco was their largest margin of defeat. They also have setbacks by seven and four points, by three points in a pair of overtime games, and 34-33 at Arizona.
Vikings: Thielen injured his left ankle on the game's opening drive and didn't return. He entered the game tied for the league lead with 10 receiving touchdowns. ... RB Dalvin Cook (shoulder) was inactive.
Lions: DT Nick Williams (left hand, wrist) and CB Jerry Jacobs (neck) were hurt during the game, but did return. ... RB D'Andre Swift (shoulder) was inactive.
Vikings: host Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
Lions: play at Denver next Sunday.
Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage
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Updated December 5, 2021