1. Kubiak was way too conservative
Coach Mike Zimmer mentioned only one series in which he felt his offense was too conservative in Sunday's 19-17 victory over the Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. That's seems way too generous to coordinator Klint Kubiak. A week earlier in Chicago, Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields completed four of six passes that traveled 20 or more yards against the Lions in his starting debut. Sunday, veteran Kirk Cousins — one of the league's most accurate passers — attempted only two deep balls, completing both. And one came out of desperation to set up the game-winning field goal.
"We wanted to come in throwing more deep balls, but they started changing their coverages a little bit," said receiver Justin Jefferson, whose 37-yard reception covered 31 yards in the air. "They started playing safety high with bracket coverage. Cover 2. So, yeah."
Cousins went 2-for-2 for 58 yards on deep balls. He should have thrown more of them.
2. Herndon's horrible day times 2
The Vikings should ask the Jets for their fourth-round draft pick back. The preseason move to get tight end Chris Herndon is not only not working out, it's going backward.
After playing 43 snaps with no catches in two targets, Herndon singlehandedly killed two drives Sunday. A holding call in the second quarter turned a 20-yard completion to Adam Thielen into first-and-20 at the Detroit 34. The Vikings settled for a field goal and a 6-3 lead. Zimmer didn't believe it was holding, calling it "some kind of call."
In the third quarter, Herndon's 15-yard penalty for an illegal crackback negated Alexander Mattison's 9-yard run on third-and-1. That turned a first down in Lions territory into third-and-16 at the Vikings' 31. They punted one play later. It was especially harmful because it came three plays after Eric Kendricks' great interception.
3. Run defense still an issue
Kendricks smiled when asked what he saw on D'Andre Swift's 7-yard go-ahead touchdown run with 37 seconds left. "I saw a holding call on Dalvin [Tomlinson]," he said of what he thought was a hold that went uncalled. "But we got to stop that, regardless."
Missing nose tackle Michael Pierce, the Vikings' run defense wasn't great against the 20th-ranked rushing attack. Then again, the Vikings came in ranked 27th in average yards per rush allowed (6.13). The Lions had 48 yards and four first downs on nine first-quarter runs (5.3).
"They hit a couple on us that I was ticked off about early," Zimmer said. "I think we settled down and made some adjustments. They copied a few of the plays Cleveland ran. And we got out of position. Early, it was ugly."
After the first quarter, the Lions ran 15 times for 60 yards (4.0) but scored too easily at the end.
4. Pressure catches up to Goff
The Vikings are probably happy Matthew Stafford wasn't on the field Sunday. The big-armed but unsteady statue that is Jared Goff was there for the beating more than enough times. It didn't start off that way. Goff wasn't pressured on his first eight throws because of a Detroit game plan designed to get the ball out quick.
That changed in a hurry, though, thanks to back-to-back sacks by Everson Griffen after the Lions reached the Vikings 23-yard line. The second sack off a spin move led to Goff turning the ball over on a fumble.
Asked about his spin move on rookie first-round pick Penei Sewell, Griffen said, "I really don't work on it in practice because it's natural. It comes out of nowhere."
Goff also was sacked on consecutive plays on third and fourth down in the fourth quarter.
5. Lions struggle getting to the red zone
The Lions staged a comedy of red-zone errors last week in Chicago. They went 1-for-5 as they turned the ball over twice and were stopped on downs two more times. Sunday, they did their meltdowns on the doorstep of the 20-yard line. Goff fumbled after Detroit reached the 23. He threw an interception at the 28 on a play in which he wasn't pressured and still threw late and behind to a spot where three Vikings were, including Kendricks, who made a one-handed interception.
"I was kind of crouching a little bit," Kendricks said. "I couldn't see him, so I felt he couldn't see me. I figured something was coming and I just kind of popped out."
Detroit did go 1-for-1 in the red zone, running three plays for 20 yards and Swift's 7-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds left.