1. Some bang on his 20-plus throws
Kirk Cousins completed three of nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown on balls that traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage in Sunday’s 42-30 win over the Lions at Ford Field. So, Kirk, did ya know that 26.5% of your passes would be traveling that far downfield? “No,” he said. “I don’t even know what we’re going to do from series to series, call to call. You just kind of play the game that is called. Each week is going to be different.” The Lions came in allowing 27 plays of 20 or more yards, sixth worst in the league. Meanwhile, they also were ranked No. 1 in lowest percentage of yards allowed after the catch (.331). Cousins would have completed a fourth deep ball, but Stefon Diggs dropped what would have been an over-the-shoulder grab for a touchdown.
2. Pro Bowl statement
If he keeps it up, Eric Kendricks is going to his first Pro Bowl. A week after posting a game-high 10 tackles and a key second-half pass defense, the Vikings middle linebacker had a game-high 12 tackles and a pass defense on fourth-and-2 from the Vikings 41-yard line with 8:52 left in the game. The Vikings turned the short field into a touchdown and a 35-24 lead. “I couldn’t tell you what I saw on the play,” said Kendricks, who broke up a short pass to running back J.D. McKissic. “I just got to the ball. That was my man in coverage, and I got on him because I knew the ball had to come out fast.” Asked if he’s making his Pro Bowl case loud and clear, Kendricks said, “That’s back-burner stuff. I always try to bring it. That’s my M.O. I try to create havoc.”
3. Cook channels inner Barry?
First of all, there is only ONE Barry Sanders. Secondly, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook laughingly assured us, “I ain’t Barry.” But Cook did create some Barry-ish moments after spotting his idol and Lions Hall of Famer on the sideline before the game. “On my iPad, that’s the only cutup I watch is Barry Sanders,” said Cook, who rushed for 142 yards, two touchdowns and had a 5.7 average on 25 carries. “One of my idols. Fun guy to watch.” In the first quarter, Cook was smashed in the hole. But he bounced outside and gained 15 yards. “Guys just want to hit you; they don’t try to wrap you up,” Cook said. “I wanted it more than him, I guess.” On his 4-yard touchdown run, Cook was hit at the 5, but made three tacklers miss. “I just try to be me,” he said. “Things just come natural.”
4. Hughes comes up big
Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes is listed at 5-10. Lions receiver Kenny Golladay is 6-4. When the Lions needed a two-point conversion to make it a three-point game with 3:05 left in the game, the obvious target was Hughes covering Golladay. But it was Hughes who outmuscled the receiver outweighing him by 22 pounds. It was one of only three times Matthew Stafford targeted the big fella who was the Lions’ leading receiver coming into the game. But he was limited to just one catch for 21 yards Sunday. The Lions instead picked on whoever was covering Marvin Jones. Or whoever tried to cover his 10 catches in 13 targets for 93 yards and four TDs. In 32 games, Golladay has posted a first down on a franchise-record 78% of his 123 catches.
5. Zebra angst continues in Detroit
You know a team is dissatisfied with the state of NFL officiating when the coin toss instructions are drowned out by 60,314 fans booing their lungs out. It only got worse for the victims of those multiple blown calls — one of which the league fessed up to — at Green Bay six days earlier. Sunday, the Lions were flagged eight times and were on the short end of a key review and a head-scratching whistle that denied Stafford the kind of free-play throw Aaron Rodgers has mastered. The review came when the Lions intercepted a ball in the end zone but also were called for defensive pass interference. The questionable call stood, and the Vikings scored from the 1 for a 14-14 tie. As for the whistle, it came when Everson Griffen was called for jumping offsides on third-and-22. Stafford and the fans were furious.