MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mike Zimmer has seen enough game-deciding kicks in eight years as coach of the Minnesota Vikings, with outcomes more often than not favoring the other team, that he usually turns away.
“I’m usually saying, if they’re kicking, ‘Miss this, blankety-blank,’ and if we’re kicking it it’s, ‘Make this, blankety-blank,’” Zimmer said with a slight smile.
This time, after a near-collapse against the winless Detroit Lions, the Vikings wound up with the better view.
Greg Joseph made a 54-yard field goal as time expired to give the Vikings a 19-17 victory over the Lions on Sunday after new Detroit coach Dan Campbell successfully called for the go-ahead 2-point conversion try with 37 seconds left.
“I’m proud of our guys the way they fought. Not particularly proud of the way we played, though,” said Zimmer, who watched the Vikings (2-3) lose a 10-point lead with less than three minutes left.
Joseph made four field goals, including a career-best 55-yarder, as the Vikings casually played a field position game until the extra-safe strategy nearly cost them a must-have victory.
After Joseph’s 49-yard attempt with 3:17 remaining strangely fell short, the Lions (0-5) went the other way for Austin Seibert’s third field goal to pull within 16-9.
Alexander Mattison, who ably filled in for the injured Dalvin Cook with 153 total yards and a second quarter touchdown catch, had the ball ripped away by Jalen Reeves-Maybin on a third-and-7 run from the Minnesota 21 right after the 2-minute warning with Detroit out of timeouts.
Three plays later, D’Andre Swift had the Lions in the end zone with 7-yard run. Instead of settling for the tie, Campbell kept the offense on the field. Jared Goff, who had turnovers earlier in the game to end two drives that inside the 30, connected on a pass to KhaDarel Hodge for the lead.
“You want it for everybody, man. You’ve got to earn one. We’re this close. We haven’t done it,” said Campbell, who held back tears during his postgame news conference.
The Lions, who have lost nine straight games overall, surely knew better than to feel comfortable at that point. The Vikings used two timeouts and two deep throws from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen to get in range for Joseph, who came through this time after missing a 37-yard field goal on the final play in a 34-33 loss at Arizona on Sept. 19.
“So happy for all the guys in locker room. The team deserved that win, and so happy I was able to deliver,” Joseph said.
Two weeks ago, the Lions lost 19-17 to Baltimore after the Ravens scrambled in the closing seconds to set up an NFL-record 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.
“It’s as hard as it gets in this league, to do stuff like that and to try to bounce back from it. I say that every week, but we’ve got a resilient bunch who will bounce back,” said Jared Goff, who posted a 64.3 passer rating while going 21 for 35 for 203 yards.
Eric Kendricks made a one-handed interception in the third quarter, and Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter each had 1 1/2 of the team’s four sacks.
Justin Jefferson took six of his seven catches for first downs and finished with 124 yards for the Vikings, whose offense has not scored a second half touchdown in four straight games.
Thielen had a 20-yard reception to the 4 that was negated by holding during a second quarter drive the Vikings capped with a field goal. Mattison had a first down catch that crossed midfield called back for a penalty in the third quarter, when the Vikings wound up punting. Cousins went 25 for 34 for 275 yards and an interception. Thielen had one of three drops by Vikings receivers.
“We aren’t happy with our performance, but at the end of the day we’ve got to enjoy a win. We’ve got to still use it as momentum,” Thielen said.
Griffen beat first-round draft pick Penei Sewell on back-to-back plays in the first quarter to destroy a promising drive for the Lions. On first-and-10 from the 23, Griffen bull-rushed past the seventh overall selection for an 8-yard sack. Then, Griffen used a slick spin move to slip past Sewell, who was listed as questionable for the game with an ankle injury, and take down Goff in tandem with Hunter.
Griffen was credited with a half-sack and a forced fumble, recovered by James Lynch at the 35. Goff leads the league in both fumbles (six) and fumbles lost (four).
Lions: WR Quintez Cephus left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. He landed hard while being tackled as he tumbled out of bounds after a 21-yard reception. ... CB Corey Ballentine hurt a hamstring in the fourth quarter.
Vikings: DT Michael Pierce (elbow) was inactive after getting hurt during the game last week, replaced in the starting lineup by Armon Watts. ... Cook has missed 23 of 69 regular season games to injury in his career.
Lions: host Cincinnati next Sunday.
Vikings: visit Carolina next Sunday.