Two weeks ago, the Vikings were ahead of the Packers for all but nine minutes of Kevin O'Connell's first game as head coach. Since then, they had not spent a single second with a lead.
The Eagles had outclassed them in a 24-7 victory Monday night, and on Sunday, the home fans who'd exulted over the Vikings' first victory booed O'Connell's team as the Lions built not one, but two double-digit leads in a game that threatened to send the Vikings overseas with a 1-2 record.
But after his defense got the stop it had to have, and his counterpart's fourth-down decision gave the Vikings a chance for at least a tying field goal with 1:10 left, O'Connell needed little time to deliberate about how he wanted to spend the game's final minute.
"I wanted to score a touchdown," he said. "I wanted to win this football game in front of our fans in regulation."
And that's what the Vikings did, beating Detroit 28-24.
The offense roared to life, for two pass plays that O'Connell didn't have on his call sheet for the Lions game. Kirk Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for two 28-yard strikes — the Vikings' first two pass plays of more than 20 yards since Week 1. After the second throw, Osborn stood in U.S. Bank Stadium's east end zone, staring into a crowd that was again at full throat and wouldn't settle until well after Josh Metellus iced the game by intercepting Jared Goff's downfield heave.
The victory was neither an emphatic statement nor an example of pristine execution. The Vikings gave up 416 yards and allowed Detroit to hold the ball for 34:04. They converted only two of their nine third-down attempts, saw Greg Joseph miss two field goals, and faced the possibility of a 17-point deficit after Dalvin Cook fumbled on a third-quarter play that also knocked him out of the game because of a left shoulder injury.
But after they lost Monday night and staggered through the first quarter Sunday, the Vikings could at least prepare for their long trip to London knowing they won't have to stop a two-game losing streak.
"The game happened just like last week's: down 14-0, not really getting nothing going at first," wide receiver Justin Jefferson said. "But this time we fought it. We stayed in there, we had the confidence that we were going to get more opportunities to go score."
It is the first time since 2017 the Vikings will end September with a winning record, and the rally brought them back from another game that looked like it could spiral out of their hands.
The Lions gained 174 yards on three game-opening possessions during which Goff had no trouble finding completions underneath the Vikings' zones. Austin Seibert's 48-yard field goal bounced off the right upright, but Detroit scored touchdowns on its next two possessions, inciting boos for the Vikings after Goff hit T.J. Hockenson for an easy score that made it 14-0.
The Vikings came back with two touchdowns to tie the score. Jefferson's backfield motion helped Adam Thielen cross the back of the Lions defense undetected and catch his first touchdown pass of the year. Cook scored on an outside run before halftime after Eric Kendricks broke up a fourth-down pass for Hockenson, and Cousins hit Thielen on fourth down to keep the Vikings' own drive alive.
In the third quarter, the Lions drove for a go-ahead field goal with the help of another fourth-down conversion, where Goff slipped away from Dalvin Tomlinson and Za'Darius Smith before finding Josh Reynolds for 16 yards.
On the Vikings' next drive, the Lions sent seven rushers after Cousins on a third-and-12; Cousins threw incomplete, Joseph missed his second long field goal of the day, and Detroit drove for a touchdown that made it 24-14.
The lead appeared like it might be insurmountable, especially after Cook's fumble and injury.
The Vikings drove 73 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, though, with the help of back-to-back penalties on Lions cornerback Amari Oruwariye, who was flagged a total of five times in the game. Alexander Mattison, who became the Vikings' lead back after Cook's injury, broke three tackles on a 6-yard TD run that pulled the Vikings within a field goal.
"That's a man's run," Cousins said of Mattison's touchdown. "Eventually, there's an unblocked player; he makes that guy miss, runs through an arm tackle. It's just a big-time run. When you call that run, you're expecting to be third-and-goal from the two. And it's just ... touchdown. That takes so much pressure off of us."
Detroit drove to the Vikings 30 on its ensuing drive, but the Vikings defensive line spilled into the Lions backfield on fourth down, stopping Jamaal Williams for no gain and giving Cousins the ball back with 3:30 left. That drive would end after five plays with a fourth-down incomplete pass to Thielen, as the receiver asked officials to flag Oruwariye for the sixth time in the game.
The Vikings would get one more chance, though, after Dan Campbell's final fourth-down decision was a peculiar one.
The Detroit coach had gone for it six times on fourth down, and the Lions had converted four of them, but he decided not to go for a fourth-and-4 from the Vikings 36 that could have ended the game.
Instead, Campbell sent Seibert out for a 54-yard attempt. He missed wide right, and Cousins needed only two throws to Osborn, against former Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes, to win the game.
"I regret that decision 100 percent," Campbell said. "I really do. I hate it. I feel like I cost our team. I really do, man."
It played against the mind-set Campbell had used all game, as the coach of a team building its identity around aggression. The Lions trusted their offensive line to control the game on 35 run plays, and counted on their cornerbacks to slow the Vikings receivers down by any means necessary. Jefferson caught only three passes for 14 yards, though the Vikings got 36 yards' worth of penalties on Oruwariye and another 3 yards on a Hughes pass interference penalty.
The moment after Campbell backed away from his relentless approach, though, O'Connell took an opportunity to put the game in his players' hands.
Cousins fired a pass for Osborn, hoping to himself he had put enough on the ball. The receiver strolled into the end zone. And at the end of a long week, the Vikings could exhale.
"Adversity is only going to be one snap away in this league," O'Connell said. "And you've just got to meet the moment, rely on your leadership and trust the guys around you in those huddles to get it done."