Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Vikings couldn’t hold on yesterday in a late loss to the first-place Lions.
— QB Teddy Bridgewater learned the slim margin between victory and defeat.
— K Blair Walsh missed all three field goal attempts, but he remains confident.
— CB Xavier Rhodes did a good job against Lions star WR Calvin Johnson.
— DE Brian Robison injured his ankle but he hopes to practice this week.
— Little-used WR Cordarrelle Patterson got opportunities late in the loss.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Haven’t seen a Viking cornerback in shutdown mode like Xavier Rhodes today on Calvin Johnson since Carl Lee back in the day! #KeepFighting
— Greg Coleman (@gregcoleman8) December 15, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Lions G Rob Sims said his team got lucky against the Vikings.
— The real season now starts for the playoff-minded Lions.
— A showdown with the Packers looms for the Lions in two weeks.
— The Lions will go as far as their defense can take them.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
Vikings players will report to Winter Park this morning for meetings and film review. The locker room will be open to media at 12:30 p.m. and coach Mike Zimmer’s press conference is at 2 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
The Vikings’ last four losses have been by a combined 14 points, and three of them were decided by three points or less. Yesterday’s two-point loss had players lamenting another incomplete finish, but the Vikings have won some close games the past couple of months, too. Three of their last four victories were decided by six points or less, including a pair of walk-off wins in overtime.
Cordarrelle Patterson had a late opportunity to make an impact on both special teams and at wide receiver in the 16-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. The Vikings kickoff returner broke off his longest return this season, 51 yards, with 3:20 left in the game then caught two passes for 16 yards on three targets.
Right before the Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s final kick return against this Lions, his blockers called him into the huddle to give a pep talk.
“I never come in the huddle, but they told me, ‘Trust me. Do what you do best,’” Patterson said. “They blocked it up so good, there was no way I couldn’t find no holes. I’ve been in [the huddle] before, but I feel comfortable outside the huddle. They told me come in. Maybe I need to start coming into the huddle with them more often.”
Patterson, used sparingly on offense as a backup, filled in for wide receiver Jarius Wright after he was on injured on the first play of that drive. The only target Patterson didn’t catch was on fourth when rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw a ball over his head. A Lions defender made contact with Patterson on his route, but there wasn’t a penalty thrown with 1:56 remaining.
“I felt like it was a penalty, but they didn’t call it,” Patterson said. “It was probably a good call by the official. The ball was probably out of reach of me getting, so it’s a 50-50 call.”
The Vikings lost their fourth straight game by single digits in the 16-14 loss to the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field. They’ve lost their last four games by a combined 14 points to the Bills, Bears, Packers and now Lions.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t looking for moral victories, as he hasn’t in the previous three close losses, but he was proud of his team’s effort despite slipping away a 14-point lead.
“They’ll fight, they’ll compete and that’s what I’ve been trying to preach since the day I walked in is that’s what I want to get done,” Zimmer said. “Obviously you want to get a win but keep doing things like this and the wins will stack up. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time, and I’ve seen the teams that come out with great effort, great heart and great fight each and every day and each and every week, win.”
The Vikings outgained the Lions 360-233 in total yards, but the Lions had 10 points off two interceptions from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings failed to score in the second half with two missed field goals, one blocked and one attempted from 68 yards at the end of the game that fell short by Blair Walsh.
“You never like losing, and we have that ‘hate-losing’ mentality around here,” Bridgewater said. “We knew it was going to be a challenge coming into this game. Those guys are very stout up front, but we let one slip away. You can’t turn the ball over twice, you can’t miss field goals. So for me, and this team, we’re going to try and continue to get better.”
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison injured his right ankle in the final minutes of the 16-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.
He hobbled off the field with assistance after the Vikings stopped the Lions on third down with 3:43 left in the game, forcing what eventually was the game-winning 33-yard field goal.
Robison wasn’t in a walking boot after the game, however.
“It feels OK right now,” Robison said. “Bottom line, I know in a few hours it’s not going to feel great. We’ll see how it progresses and go from there. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll try to get as much treatment as I can to get back as quick as possible and hopefully won’t miss any practice time this week. I don’t want to leave my guys hanging out there.”
The Vikings lead 14-10 over the Lions at Ford Field at halftime. Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo, who started for the injured Robert Blanton, is listed as questionable with a thumb injury. Rookie safety Antone Exum finished the first half at strong safety.
The Good: The Vikings defensive might’ve allowed 10 points in the first half, but it was due to two turnovers by the Vikings that placed the Lions in scoring position. The Vikings didn’t allow a first down until 9:22 left in the first half. They held the Lions to three straight three-and-outs to start the game. The Lions have just 89 total yards and just three first downs, while going 1 of 7 on third down.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has shadowed wide receiver Calvin Johnson the entire game. Johnson has one catch for four yards so far.
The Bad: Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started with the best 20 minutes of his career, and the narrative quickly changed right before halftime. Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner had a great gameplan in place with the Vikings firing on all cylinders to knock a good Lions defense off balance. Bridgewater was 13 of 16 for 168 yards and a touchdown.
Then Bridgewater threw interceptions on consecutive drives, which produced 10 points for the Lions. In what appeared to be a communication issue with wide receiver Charles Johnson, Lions safety Glover Quin intercepted Bridgewater’s pass. On the next drive, Bridgewater threw a poor ball intended for wide receiver Greg Jennings that landed in cornerback Darius Slay’s hands.
The Ugly: Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed another field goal and has now missed three of his last four field goals. Walsh pulled a 53-yard field goal wide right on the Vikings first drive. He’s now 5-of-8 on field goals over 50 yards.
|Tennessee||12/18/14 7:25 PM|
|Philadelphia||12/20/14 3:30 PM|
|San Diego||12/20/14 7:25 PM|
|Minnesota||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Baltimore||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Atlanta||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|New England||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||12/21/14 3:05 PM|
|Buffalo||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Seattle||12/21/14 7:30 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|James Madison||6:00 PM|
|SIU Edwardsville||6:00 PM|
|St Francis-PA||6:00 PM|
|North Florida||6:00 PM|
|Arkansas State||6:00 PM|
|NC A&T||6:00 PM|
|Robert Morris||6:00 PM|
|Char Southern||6:00 PM|
|Kennesaw St||6:00 PM|
|TX A&M-CC||7:00 PM|
|Ark-Pine Bluff||7:00 PM|
|UT Martin||7:00 PM|
|Abilene Christian||7:00 PM|
|USC Upstate||7:00 PM|
|Alcorn State||7:00 PM|
|Central Mich||7:00 PM|
|Georgia State||7:00 PM|
|TX-Pan American||7:00 PM|
|Texas State||7:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin|
|SC State||7:00 PM|
|Missouri State||7:00 PM|
|Chicago State||7:00 PM|
|Morehead State||7:00 PM|
|Northern Colorado||7:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||8:00 PM|
|San Diego St||8:00 PM|
|Eastern Mich||8:00 PM|
|Loyola Marymount||8:00 PM|
|Incarnate Word||8:00 PM|
|Central Arkansas||9:00 PM|
|Grambling St||10:00 PM|
|Nevada||12/20/14 10:00 AM|
|Utah State||12/20/14 1:20 PM|
|(23) Utah||12/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Mich||12/20/14 4:45 PM|
|South Alabama||12/20/14 8:15 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|(21) Miss State||66||FINAL|
|Montana||54||2nd Half 1:33|
|(7) Stanford||28||2nd Half|
|Florida A&M||8||1st Half 13:34|
|Oklahoma||11||1st Half 15:37|
|Savannah State||5||1st Half 15:54|
|Northern Colorado||6:00 PM|
|Youngstown St||6:00 PM|
|(1) South Carolina||6:00 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast||6:00 PM|
|Texas Southern||6:00 PM|
|NC A&T||6:00 PM|
|NC Central||6:00 PM|
|Alabama State||6:00 PM|
|Morehead St||6:00 PM|
|Arkansas State||6:00 PM|
|American Univ||6:00 PM|
|UNC Greensboro||6:00 PM|
|Prairie View||6:30 PM|
|Sam Houston St|
|McNeese State||7:00 PM|
|Eastern Kentucky||7:00 PM|
|North Texas||9:00 PM|