Sunday, October 1, 2017

Notebook: Turnovers loom large as Vikings fall to Detroit, 14-7


 The Vikings were plagued by three turnovers and the Lions took advantage as they edged Minnesota, 14-7, at U.S. Bank Stadium. Daniel House provides his quick takeaways.

Updated: October 1, 2017, 5:50 p.m.

By: Daniel House

The Vikings were plagued by three turnovers and the Lions took advantage as they edged Minnesota, 14-7, at U.S. Bank Stadium. An Ameer Abdullah rushing touchdown and two Matt Prater field goals were all the Lions needed to pick up a key road win.

Mistakes and missed opportunities
The Vikings were unable to take care of the football and it killed them during this game. They committed three turnovers and were unable to create any on defense. Out of halftime, the Vikings tried a wildcat formation play and Jerick McKinnon bobbled the exchange with running back Dalvin Cook. It led to a fumble and eventual made field goal. It was a key moment in the game as the Vikings were showing rhythm on the drive. In the fourth quarter, Minnesota had the ball with 1:51 left and no timeouts, but an Adam Thielen fumble ended the game. Detroit had 11 points off turnovers and it was the key difference in this loss. In addition, the offense was unable to get the protection set in the red zone and it led to a key sack in the final minutes of the game.

There were a few missed opportunities throughout this game and they came at critical moments. Quarterback Case Keenum moved well in the pocket to create plays, but he also missed a few receivers. At times he was inaccurate and left some yardage on the field by not leading his receivers. However, he performed well enough for the team to win and the mistakes were just too much. A third quarter that featured a missed field goal and two fumbles really changed the entire outlook of the game.

Cook suffers potentially serious injury
Running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries before going down with a non-contact knee injury. After the game, head coach Mike Zimmer said the team fears Cook may have suffered an ACL tear. He will have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity. Cook gave the Vikings a dynamic weapon in their offense and his loss would be a devastating blow to the team. The offensive line opened holes for Cook to run, especially during his 5-yard touchdown run. Left tackle Riley Reiff set the edge beautifully and guard Nick Easton dominated his rep. The offensive line did their job Sunday, but mistakes plagued the entire unit. Keenum had time to throw and was able to step up when needed, which allowed the offense to have chances down the field.

Defensive line gets after Stafford
The defense held Detroit’s offense to 14 points and put consistent pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throughout the game. Minnesota grabbed six sacks, including a pair each from linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Danielle Hunter. The Vikings brought plenty of pressure and did so in unique ways. They lined up Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter on the same side in a NASCAR style package. Later in the game, they sent A-gap pressure and delayed blitzes. The Lions mustered just 3.7 yards per play and 4.2 per pass. More importantly, they converted on just 3 of their 13 third down tries. However, turnovers and ball control washed all of that progress away.

Minnesota’s defense played well enough to win, but couldn’t execute in two areas. First, the team had four passes tip off the hands of defensive backs and they were unable to take advantage. When the turnover battle was already being lost by the offense, the defense needed to create a takeaway. They were also unable to recover a Matthew Stafford fumble that bounced inside the 10-yard-line. The defense played very well, but could have been even more dominant if they created a couple takeaways. Secondly, they allowed several big runs as Ameer Abdullah put together a career-high 94-yard performance. The Lions extended drives and controlled the clock by running the ball sporadically. Detroit won the time of possession battle 36:27 to 23:33 and it was another big difference maker. Nonetheless, the defense surrendered just 14 points and it again comes back to scoring over 21 points in each game to come out on top.

Overall, the offense made too many mistakes and the defense couldn’t grab any takeaways to offset those errors. A strong defensive effort was enough as the Vikings dropped a key divisional home game.