Lions top Vikings on last-second field goal
DETROIT -- Matthew Stafford takes exception to the notion that the Detroit Lions are lucky to be in first place. What is certain is that the Lions have a knack for late-game magic. The NFL's version of Comeback Kids this season notched another fo...
DETROIT - Matthew Stafford takes exception to the notion that the Detroit Lions are lucky to be in first place.
What is certain is that the Lions have a knack for late-game magic. The NFL's version of Comeback Kids this season notched another fourth-quarter rally, as Matt Prater's 40-yard field goal on the final play gave the Lions a 16-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and sole possession of first place in the NFC North at Ford Field.
"A charmed life? We'd be up by 30 in the fourth quarter," Stafford said. "We're just battling, that's more than anything. We don't feel lucky to be down in every fourth quarter. We feel like we're working our tails off to get wins."
The Lions (7-4) have trailed in the fourth quarter in all of their victories. Darius Slay's interception of a Sam Bradford pass set up the game-winner.
Prater nailed a 58-yard kick at the end of regulation in Minnesota earlier this month, setting up Detroit's 22-16 overtime win.
"When Slay got the interception at the end, I wasn't surprised," Prater said while clutching his 10-month-old son, Pax. "I went over (earlier) and actually kicked a couple in the net. I felt pretty confident we were going to be able to close the game out at the end."
And why not? Detroit has won six of its last seven and all of its games have been decided by seven or fewer points. That streak is an NFL record.
"I do think that our group plays loose and aggressive," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "You can't play uptight, and they don't get uptight even at the end of ballgames in tough situations. That can be a little bit uncomfortable but it doesn't bother them."
Detroit now essentially holds a two-game advantage over the Vikings (6-5) because of the head-to-head tiebreaker with five games to play.
"We're in a decent position but they don't hand out trophies after a few wins like we've had," said Caldwell, whose team has won four straight on Thanksgiving Day. "But we're happy we were able to find a way to pull them out, that's for sure."
Stafford completed 23 of 40 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. Anquan Boldin caught seven passes for 69 yards, including the 2-yard score to complete Detroit's first possession.
The Vikings have lost five of their last six.
"Tough to lose today," coach Mike Zimmer said. "We fought hard and didn't execute well enough at the end of the game. It's disappointing. We weren't good enough on third down. Offensively, we can't continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with some of the penalties and negative plays."
Zimmer's club only plays one team with a winning record the rest of the way, which gives the Vikings hope.
"We've got five games left to play," he said. "We're going to keep fighting."
Minnesota (6-5) played without its leading receiver, Stefon Diggs, who was inactive with a knee injury. Diggs caught 13 passes in the first meeting with the Lions.
Without him, the Vikings relied on a short passing game. Bradford completed 31 of 37 passes for 224 yards. Tight end Kyle Rudolph caught nine passes for 64 yards and Adam Thielen gathered in eight passes for 53 yards.
Bradford was efficient until the game's lone turnover. Slay stepped in front of Thielen on a third-and-7 situation and intercepted Bradford's pass at the 33. Slay returned it to the 20-yard line.
An illegal formation penalty had wiped out an apparent Vikings first down pass to Jerick McKinnon on the previous play.
Vikings kicker Kai Forbath's 28-yard field goal with 12:38 left gave Minnesota a 13-10 advantage.
The Lions couldn't get anything going offensively in the second half until they started a drive from their own 2. Boldin's 29-yard reception on third-and-8 from the Detroit 18 gave the Lions some breathing room. Detroit advanced the ball far enough to set up Prater's 48-yard field goal, tying it at 13-all with 1:45 remaining.