MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Detroit Lions are playing some dominant defense.
With Ziggy Ansah and Ndamukong Suh leading a relentless rush, the Lions had eight sacks and three interceptions of Minnesota rookie Teddy Bridgewater in a 17-3 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
Joique Bell put the game away with a fourth-quarter touchdown run to finish with 74 yards on 18 carries, and the Lions (4-2) won at Minnesota for only the second time in their last 17 trips. They entered the week with the fewest yards per game and the second-fewest points per game allowed in the NFL and still managed to top themselves, playing some stingy defense in a division that lacked it last season.
''It's definitely something to be proud of, but at the end of the day it's very early in the season,'' said Suh, who had two sacks and a big hand in holding the Vikings to 69 yards on 18 rushes. ''If we're talking Week 17 or Week 16 and we're still at this pace, which I expect this defense to do, then we can start to be really excited about it because it's translating to wins.''
So far, so good. The Lions bounced back firmly from a 17-14 loss to Buffalo.
''You have to find a way to stem the tide a little bit. I think our guys were ready to put that one behind them,'' coach Jim Caldwell said.
With Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush absent because of ankle injuries, the Lions played a low-risk game and were forced to punt as often as the Vikings: seven times each. Detroit converted only one of 13 third downs.
Matthew Stafford wasn't at his best, missing his three-time All-Pro wide receiver and finishing 19 for 33 for 185 yards. Theo Riddick caught five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, the latest running back to work his way into the game plan this season. Riddick later hurt his hamstring.
But Stafford was turnover-free, most importantly, and good enough to lead a seven-play, 80-yard opening drive for a score to put the defense in position to dominate. The Lions kept pace with three-time defending NFC North champion Green Bay, which won 27-24 at Miami on a last-second touchdown. The Lions beat the Packers 19-7 at home last month.
''We were just out there on a mission, trying to get back on track,'' said linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who picked off Bridgewater twice, both on tipped balls.
Ansah, who was limping around at times, didn't have any trouble reaching Bridgewater. He had 2 1/2 sacks, as seven different Lions were credited with at least a half of a sack. They held the Vikings to 212 total yards.
''Hats off to Detroit. Great defense. They're No. 1 in the league for a reason,'' said Bridgewater, who finished 23 for 37 for 188 yards.
One of the interceptions was tipped at the line by Devin Taylor and another went through running back Matt Asiata's hands. But Bridgewater also ended a promising opening possession by locking his eyes on Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone. He threw late on a post pattern, allowing Glover Quin to pick the ball off with ease.
The Vikings talked this week about getting the ball more to Patterson, but he was a nonfactor again with one carry for 2 yards and two catches for 15 yards. Bridgewater, left largely unprotected during another shaky performance by the offensive line, targeted Patterson with eight passes.
''I'm extremely disappointed about this loss. I can handle getting beat, but I can't handle getting our butts whipped like that,'' coach Mike Zimmer said.
The one problem for Detroit? Two more missed field goal attempts. Newcomer Matt Prater, the third kicker used by the Lions in four weeks, made a 52-yarder but missed from 50 and 44 into swirling wind. Caldwell said he wasn't concerned.
NOTES: Suh, in his fifth season, passed Shaun Rogers on the franchise list for career sacks by a defensive tackle, with 30 1/2. Rogers played seven years for the Lions. ... Jerick McKinnon moved ahead of Asiata as the featured runner for the Vikings and totaled 82 total yards on 17 touches. ... The Lions have missed 10 of 15 field goals this season.
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