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Zulgad: Vikings avoid Motown meltdown, leave with only thing that matters

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings won’t get any style points for their too-close-for-comfort 30-23 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thursday at Ford Field. A 17-point lead early in the third quarter made it appear as if this should have turned into a rout but that never happened.

However, before anyone begins grumbling about the fact the Lions pulled within four points in the final quarter, keep this in mind.

The Vikings were playing four days after one of their most impressive victories of the season, they were facing an opponent that has given Mike Zimmer-coached teams trouble since he took the job and, most importantly, the Vikings managed to leave Detroit with a 9-2 record and the NFC North title all but wrapped up.

The victory was the Vikings’ seventh in a row and gives Minnesota a three-game lead over the Lions (6-5) in the division. The Vikings now will get an extended break and be off until a week from Sunday when they face the Falcons in Atlanta in the second game of a three-game road trip.

Two years ago, the Vikings clinched the NFC North title in their final game of the season with a victory at Lambeau Field. That came in Zimmer’s second season and was a nice surprise given that the two seasons before that featured 5-10-1 and 7-9 finishes.

This time there is a much different feel and expectation surrounding the Vikings. It’s not a stretch to look at this team the same way we did the 2009 Vikings. Led by veteran quarterback Brett Favre, those Vikings were 10-1 after 11 games en route to a 12-4 finish.

The expectations for this bunch might be why there was some grumbling as the Lions got two Matt Prater field goals in the third quarter and a 43-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones Jr. early in the fourth to cut their deficit to four points.

The Lions had an opportunity to take the lead on their ensuing drive but stalled at their own 18-yard line after only three plays. Kai Forbath responded with a 36-yard field goal after the Vikings got the ball back to put Minnesota up by seven.

Zimmer isn’t going to worry about how this victory looked. Minnesota was playing only a few days after beating the Los Angeles Rams by 17 points in what would qualify as the team’s most impressive victory of the season. The Rams entered with a 7-2 record and still sit atop the NFC West.

The Vikings also were playing with Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes nursing a calf injury that clearly slowed him. Rhodes was thrown at on both of the Lions’ touchdowns – Jones caught each of them – something that rarely seems to happen these days given the respect paid to Rhodes.

There was a time when the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day doubleheader was celebrated as being special because it provided the special treat of Thursday football. That’s no longer the case. Thursday night games are now played on a weekly basis and more often than not, with inadequate time for rest and preparation, they are garbage.

Teams hate them, players hate them and the greedy at the NFL celebrate them as a source of revenue, without caring one bit about quality. They also apparently don’t care about the quality of the officiating given the embarrassing performance of a Tony Corrente-led crew that called a combined 17 penalties, missed at least one key one and played a role in nearly botching a touchdown review.

The Lions looked lost for much of the first half and the Vikings nearly fell apart in the second. That’s Thursday football for you.

Zimmer should be happy to escape Detroit with a victory. At one time the Lions were nothing more than a punching bag for the Vikings – Bud Grant went 26-8-1 against them, Mike Tice was 8-0 and Brad Childress was 8-1 – but Zimmer entered Thursday’s game having lost three in a row to the Lions, including a 14-7 setback in the first meeting this season at U.S. Bank Stadium, and five of seven overall.

That changed as Case Keenum completed 21 of 30 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns (both to Kyle Rudolph); Adam Thielen became the first Vikings receiver to go over 1,000 yards in a season since Sidney Rice in 2009; and the hobbled Rhodes picked off a pass to secure the victory.

Was it pretty? No.

The style points came on Sunday against the Rams.

But in a few days, no one is going to care whether Thursday’s game was aesthetically pleasing. All they are going to focus on is the Vikings are sitting at 9-2 and the only team with a better winning percentage in the league right now is the Philadelphia Eagles.

The post Zulgad: Vikings avoid Motown meltdown, leave with only thing that matters appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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