Skip to main content

Disaster in Detroit: Vikings Lose Last-Second Stunner to Winless Lions, 29-27

The Vikings fall to 5-7 after handing the Lions their first victory in 364 days. What a catastrophe.

We may have just witnessed the end of the Mike Zimmer era, whether it's made official on Monday morning or not.

On a last-second ending that immediately goes into the top tier of soul-crushing losses and embarrassing moments in this snake-bitten franchise's history, the Vikings fell 29-27 to the Lions, handing the perennial NFC North bottom-feeders their first victory in 364 days.

When you play with fire every single week, you're going to get burned sometimes. That's what happened to the Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field, as they shot themselves in the foot over and over again and allowed the game to come down to the very last play. It didn't have to be that close, but it was, and the Lions took advantage.

Detroit had one last chance: a fourth-and-2 from the Vikings' 11-yard-line with four seconds on the clock. Zimmer called a timeout to set up his defense, and then came out with a bizarre strategy. The Vikings rushed three and dropped eight into coverage, but didn't challenge the Lions' receivers at all. In what was likely a combination of poor coaching and worse execution, Cameron Dantzler gave his man a massive cushion in the end zone. All Jared Goff had to do was deliver a simple throw to a wide-open Amon-Ra St. Brown for the win.

Earlier on the drive, Mackensie Alexander and Bashaud Breeland came awfully close to securing interceptions on two separate plays that would've ended the game. But with the Vikings dropping back in coverage and getting zero pressure on Goff, he was able to lead a 75-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in 1:50 — without any timeouts.

The Vikings dropped to 5-7, watched their playoff hopes take a massive hit, and suffered the eternal embarrassment of being the first team to lose to the woeful Detroit Lions in 2021.

There are a lot of reasons why the Vikings allowed that game to come down to the final play, but a disastrous first half has to be at the top. Awful play-calling and execution on several early offensive opportunities caused the Vikings to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns as they went up 6-0 in the first quarter. Those early struggles, combined with an Adam Thielen ankle injury on the opening series, were the first indications that this wasn't going to be a straightforward task.

Read More

Then the second quarter came around, and the Vikings fell apart. After Minnesota's second field goal, the Lions drove for a quick touchdown to take a lead that they wouldn't relinquish until late in the fourth quarter. The Vikings' ensuing possession ended with Kirk Cousins getting stripped for a turnover, and three plays later, the Lions were up 14-6. Another sack of Cousins and a failed fourth-down attempt led to two more Lions field goals as they took a 20-6 lead into the break.

The Vikings, to their credit, made some adjustments at halftime and came out firing in the third quarter. They quickly cut the deficit to 20-15, but a questionable decision to go for two after their first touchdown backfired and had a ripple effect throughout the rest of the game. Suddenly chasing points, the Vikings ended up going for two after all three of their second-half touchdowns and went 0 for 3. Had they just kicked the extra point on the first score (and thus also the ensuing scores), the Lions' last-second touchdown would've only sent the game to overtime. Hindsight is 20/20, but that reflects poorly on Zimmer.

The Lions could only manage a single field goal prior to the final play, while the Vikings crept closer and eventually took the lead on touchdown receptions by K.J. Osborn and Justin Jefferson. Jefferson, by the way, had a career day with Thielen leaving just minutes into the game. He caught 11 passes on 14 targets for 182 yards and a touchdown. The receptions and yards were both career-highs. Jefferson was simply incredible and continues to state the case that he's the best receiver in the NFL. Jefferson, Cousins (30/40, 340 yards, 2 TD, 1 fumble lost), and Alexander Mattison (124 yards from scrimmage, TD) put the offense on their backs in the second half, but it wasn't enough.

In the end, the Vikings' ugly first half, failed two-point tries, and some ill-timed penalties kept the Lions alive in a game where they didn't convert a third down until the final minutes.

The Vikings played with fire and they got burned on the last play of the game, setting off a celebration of relief in Detroit.

After an inexcusably ugly performance like this, you have to wonder if major changes are coming in Minnesota. Technically, the Vikings' playoff hopes remain alive as they head into a Thursday Night Football matchup with the Steelers this week and four more games after that, two of them against the Bears. But realistically, this felt like not only the end of the season, but the end of the Zimmer era altogether.

There probably isn't any coming back from a loss to the 2021 Lions. That was an absolute catastrophe that is going to be talked about for a long time, whether the Vikings can bounce back or not.

Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all season long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.