Vikings beat Lions to extend win streak to seven
DETROIT — The Minnesota Vikings have not quite clinched the NFC North title. But by all appearances, their division opponents can forget about catching them.
The Vikings extended their winning streak to seven games with a 30-23 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field. Minnesota (9-2) opened up a three-game lead in the NFC North with five games remaining.
“I like this football team,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “They’re a bunch of fighters. They compete. When things go bad, they don’t panic.”
Case Keenum, who came into the season as a backup, continues to surprise with his production and poise. He threw two touchdown passes to Kyle Rudolph and ran for another while completing 21 of 30 passes for 282 yards in Thursday’s game.
Keenum has completed at least 70 percent of his passes over the last three games while accounting for eight touchdowns.
“Today, he seemed like he was more settled,” Zimmer said. “There are times when he gets a little excited and goes off the (chain) a little bit. Today, he seemed to be in a pretty good mindset.”
Latavius Murray gained 84 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown for Minnesota. Everson Griffen, celebrating the birth of his son, led the defense with two sacks.
Minnesota led by as much as 17 points but it still came down the closing minutes.
An offsides penalty against Detroit wiped out a potential tying touchdown when a Kai Forbath field-goal try was blocked returned all the way to the end zone by the Lions with 1:14 left. The penalty clinched the win for the Vikings.
“We know how tough this team is to close out,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “We’ve had some nail-biters the last few games. It feels really good to get a division win. We knew how much this game meant to the divisional race.”
Matthew Stafford passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns and was intercepted once for Detroit (6-5), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell isn’t ready to concede the division.
“Don’t count us out just yet,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of football to play and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Stafford suffered a right ankle injury while throwing a 43-yard scoring pass to Marvin Jones early in the fourth quarter but didn’t miss a snap. Jones caught six passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a warrior. You already know that,” Jones said of Stafford. “He’s been through a lot in terms of what his body goes through, and time after time he gets in there, gathers himself and does what he does. You have to prop him for that and I wouldn’t play with anybody else.”
Murray scored 2:08 into the second half on a 2-yard run to give Minnesota a 27-10 lead. He set up the score with a 46-yard burst.
An apparent Stafford-to-Darren Fells touchdown pass was nullified upon review, as Fells didn’t complete the catch. Detroit had to settle for Matt Prater’s 32-yard field goal. Prater drilled a 50-yard field goal late in the quarter.
Stafford’s 43-yard scoring pass to Jones made it 27-23. Forbath’s 36-yard field goal with 3:42 left gave the Vikings a seven-point advantage. Stafford was intercepted on a desperation fourth-down pass by cornerback Xavier Rhodes with 2:50 left.
Minnesota led 20-10 at halftime.
The Vikings drove 80 yards on 14 plays during their first possession. They capped it off with a 1-yard pass from Keenum to Rudolph. The extra-point try was blocked.
They were back in business when Lions running back Ameer Abdullah fumbled a handoff at his 39 and defensive end Danielle Hunter recovered. Keenum scored three plays later when he faked a handoff and ran untouched into the end zone from 9 yards out.
Prater’s 32-yard field goal put the Lions on the board. Rudolph got behind the defense and caught a 22-yard scoring pass from Keenum with 37 seconds remaining in the half.
Detroit got those points back in just 27 seconds with a three-play, 75-yard drive. Jones barely crossed the goal line on a 6-yard touchdown reception.
NOTES: Veteran DE Dwight Freeney, claimed by the Lions from Seattle earlier this week, was inactive. Top kick returner Jamal Agnew (knee) and RB Dwayne Washington (hip) were also among the inactives. ... Minnesota OT Mike Remmers (concussion) missed his third consecutive game. ... The teams split their first four meetings on Thanksgiving Day. ... Lions S Tavon Wilson departed early in the second half with a shoulder injury. ... Both teams play three of their next four games on the road. ... Minnesota K Kai Forbath has missed a league-high five extra-point attempts.