Dave Birkett Detroit Free Press
Published 4:01 PM EST Nov 4, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS — Even Golden Tate couldn’t have saved the Detroit Lions from this mess.
Playing their first game since they traded Tate, their leading receiver, to the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this week, the Lions got manhandled Sunday by the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Matthew Stafford was sacked a career-high 10 times, the Lions gave up another huge run and they managed just three field goals in a 24-9 loss that showed just how far they are from contending in the NFC North.
The Vikings pummeled Stafford on Sunday, running over, around and through a Lions offensive line that had played well for most of the year.
Danielle Hunter had 3.5 sacks, Tom Johnson added 2.5, and Hunter returned a fumbled Stafford pitch to Kerryon Johnson 32 yards for the game-clinching touchdown with 6:57 to play.
The Vikings, owners of the NFL’s 10th-ranked defense, feasted on a Lions team that looked lost on offense without Tate, who had been Stafford’s go-to receiver for most of his 4.5 seasons in Detroit.
The Lions failed to score a touchdown Sunday for the first time all year, got little production from their running game (71 yards) for the second straight week and hit the midpoint of the season with fading playoff hopes and little reason for optimism.
At 3-5, the Lions visit the division-leading Chicago Bears and another stout defense next week in their second of five straight games against top playoff contenders.
Theo Riddick, in his return from a knee injury, caught a team-high seven passes Sunday and took Tate’s place as the team’s primary slot receiver. But the Lions finished with just 214 yards of offense, much of it coming on a late fourth-quarter field-goal drive, and couldn’t take advantage of two Vikings turnovers.
Sam Martin slipped while squibbing the opening kickoff in an ominous sign for the Lions, and the Vikings marched 65 yards in nine plays for an easy score. The Vikings (5-3) converted a fourth-and-2 on the drive, with Kirk Cousins passing to receiver Chad Beebe, who had been activated from the practice squad a day earlier, and Latavius Murray scored on a 1-yard run.
The Lions drove inside the Minnesota 15-yard line twice in the second quarter, but settled for field goals both times as sacks and penalties thwarted their drives.
After a Matt Prater cut the Vikings’ lead to 7-6 with 4:45 left in the first half, Dalvin Cook broke a 70-yard run to open the ensuing possession and Adam Thielen beat Nevin Lawson two plays later for a touchdown.
Cook, who’s missed five games with a hamstring injury this year, had 89 of Minnesota’s 128 yards rushing on Sunday, while Kirk Cousins completed 18 of 22 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown.
Thielen had just four catches for 22 yards, snapping his streak of eight straight 100-yard receiving games, which tied Calvin Johnson’s NFL record.
Stafford was 25 of 36 passing for 199 yards for the Lions.
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