See more of the story

Alexander Mattison spent roughly 4 ½ hours in one of the best, worst, happy, sad, up, down and then up again stress-testing days you'll ever see an NFL player experience on game day.

"It was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster," the running back said after the Vikings edged the lowly Lions 19-17 on Greg Joseph's 54-yard field goal as time expired at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The game-winning and possible head coach-saving kick came five plays after the Lions took a 17-16 lead with a touchdown and two-point conversion, and eight plays after Mattison's 25th and final carry was wrenched from his grasp for a Lions takeaway at the Vikings' 20-yard line.

"It's football and it happens to the best of us," Mattison said of his fumble. "At the end, I talked to Greg and he talked to me and he said, 'You got my back, I got your back.' That's what this team is about."

Mattison said he found out 90 minutes before kickoff that Dalvin Cook wasn't going to play because of his nagging ankle injury. Mattison responded with some ups and obviously some downs. He …

  • Touched the ball 32 times for 153 yards and a touchdown. He ran for a career-high 113 yards, but 24 of his 25 carries produced 65 yards for a 2.7-yard average.
  • Broke tackles on a 48-yard burst but couldn't cap it with a Cook-like finish, being dragged down at the Detroit 25. "Breaking some tackles, coming off some tackles, I couldn't run any faster," Mattison said. "So I just tried to break that tackle and almost got out of it. But I couldn't hit my other gear." Too bad, because the drive ended with Kirk Cousins throwing an interception with a 13-6 lead late in the third quarter.
  • Caught seven passes for 40 yards. Six were for an un-Cook-like 25 yards, but one was a 15-yard touchdown in which Mattison broke four tackles inside the 8-yard line.
  • Ran hard on that 25th and final carry. Too hard as it turned out, because linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin stole the ball from him while he was being stopped for no gain on third-and-7 with 1:56 left and the Vikings already resigned to punting the ball away. "Just need to understand when the battle is over," Mattison said. "Just knowing when you kinda just gotta let it be. Situational football. Protect the ball, get down."


Zimmer was asked if he thought about throwing the ball on that play to try and get the game-clinching first down. He said the coaches talked about it.

"If we punted the ball, they'd have had a minute, 20 seconds or something, and the way we've been rushing their quarterback I figured we had a good chance [to stop them]," Zimmer said. "So I think it would have 1:21 left if we ran the ball so that was that."

In the end, Mattison was able to leave U.S. Bank Stadium with a smile and the relief of knowing the Vikings didn't start 1-4 because of his late blunder.

He'd rather talk about a second-quarter touchdown that in a lot of ways symbolized the brute force it takes to win an ugly game that wasn't going to accumulate any style points.

Mattison cut inside and caught the ball at the 11-yard line with space to operate. Tight end Tyler Conklin and receiver Justin Jefferson took defenders with them when they cut outside.

Reeves-Maybin hit Mattison at the 7. No luck. Cornerback A.J. Parker went for the kill shot and bounced off Mattison at the 5.

Linebacker Alex Anzalone and safety Will Harris met Mattison at the 2. Mattison kept his legs churning as left guard Ezra Cleveland and center Garrett Bradbury raced in with 612 pounds of pile-moving assistance for a 13-3 lead.

"[Cleveland and Bradbury] did a great job smacking him, actually smacking me," said receiver Adam Thielen, who also was blocking on the play. "There's some friendly fire there for sure. But we got it in the end zone."

Fortunately for Mattison, Joseph had his back at the end of an up-and-down day.