Vikings' NFC North title plans put on hold after 34-23 loss to Lions

Celebrating the first NFC North Division title in five years will have to wait another week, and players won’t be wearing any celebratory chains on the flight home from the Motor City.

The Minnesota Vikings fell to 10-3 and had their division title hopes put on hold after a 34-23 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field. The Vikings can point to their defense having one of its worst games of the season, a couple tough sequences from the offense and one interesting decision after a touchdown in the loss.

"We’ve got to be better if we want to earn the right to punch our ticket into the playoffs, we sure better have a playoff-worthy performance, which I did not think overall as a football team we did today. That's ultimately something that falls on me," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said after the loss.

Jared Goff finished 27-of-39 passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns, to Jameson Williams, DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds. The Vikings allowed 464 total yards, setting a franchise record after allowing at least 400 total yards for the fifth straight game. The Vikings held the Jets to just 1-of-6 in the red zone last week. Sunday, the Lions scored two of their four touchdowns on explosive plays and we're 2-of-2 in the red zone.

"The big plays, we’ve got to make sure we limit. That’s every defense that I’ve ever played on. Ultimately we didn’t execute well enough to get the turnovers and make the plays we needed to win," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "What we did today was really lack of execution."

Kirk Cousins was 31-of-41 for 425 yards and two touchdowns, both in the second half, to Adam Thielen and KJ Osborn. Dalvin Cook scored from 1-yard out in the first quarter, but finished with just 23 yards on 15 carries. Justin Jefferson had another historic day, finishing 11 catches for 223 yards and setting a Vikings’ franchise record for receiving yards in a game, passing Sammy White.

But they didn't get the payoff of a win, and earning a division title.

"That’s the frustration is you want to shut the door, and we didn’t. Saturday at noon, back in Minnesota. It’s about us, but also want to encourage our fans to show up, and let’s get that thing done at noon," Cousins said.

O’Connell will have questions to answer about his defense, and about a pair of offensive decisions that swung the game. Late in the first half, with the Vikings on the verge of a game-tying touchdown and getting the ball to start the third quarter. Dalvin Cook got the ball for what could’ve been a jump pass to Johnny Mundt. He hesitated, fumbled and the Lions recovered.

"I’ve got to take care of the football, I fumbled it," Cook said.

It was a play they've practiced this season, and did during the week to get ready for the Lions.

"Dalvin was actually going to attempt to throw that football to Johnny Mundt. He was open in the back, ultimately trying to be aggressive in that moment. We had the play set up and just didn’t execute. It was a critical error," O'Connell said. "I felt comfortable with him (Dalvin) executing that play in that moment."

Compounding matters, the Vikings opened the second half with a 3-and-out.

The Lions' first touchdown was set up after O'Connell went for it on 4th-and-1 from near midfield in the first quarter. Cook got the carry out of the shotgun, and got stuffed. Two plays later, Goff hit Jameson Williams for his first career catch and score from 41 yards out.

The Vikings’ defense also got burned by a fake punt in the third quarter that the Lions turned into a 42-yard gain. The drive ended with Goff hitting Reynolds for a 5-yard touchdown, and a 21-7 Lions lead. The Vikings were without safety Harrison Smith due to a neck issue. The defense didn’t generate any pressure on Goff most of the day, he wasn't sacked and didn't have any turnovers. The Lions were also 7-of-15 on third down conversions.

"I think we’ve got to take a look at what we can do to help our guys be in position to make more plays, be a little more aggressive possibly. We’ve got to generate some more rush and try to limit explosives," O'Connell said.

"Gotta get back to work and we’ve got to do better, that’s for sure," linebacker Eric Kendricks said.

Cousins hit Thielen for a 23-yard touchdown with 2:17 to play in the third quarter, cutting the Vikings’ deficit to 21-13. O’Connell went for a two-point conversion, and a screen pass to Thielen failed.

The Vikings were also without center Garrett Bradbury, who had a back injury, and Christian Darrisaw, who needed more practice time after clearing the concussing protocol earlier int the week. Without Bradbury and Darrisaw, the Vikings ran 17 times for just 22 yards.

The Lions have won five of their last six after a 1-6 start, and are still alive for a Wild Card playoff spot. The Vikings miss a chance to win the division, lock up a playoff spot and stay in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The Vikings can win the division with a win over the Colts next Saturday, a "White Out" at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"We’re still in a good position. We still have 10 wins, and we’re still on top of our division. We’ve just got to come ready to play next week and get that 11th win," Jefferson said.