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Lions' defense carries team again on way to playoffs

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The Detroit Lions were staring at their playoff mortality when they faced a 14-point deficit in the first half against Minnesota. They overcame for a crucial 16-14 victory over the Vikings. Here's what we learned:

1. Teddy Bridgewater is playing better than any rookie quarterback in the league, but he's still no match for the Lions' defense. After starting out sharp while building a two-touchdown lead, Bridgewater was picked off twice in the second quarter and then shut out after halftime. He had two chances to author a game-winning field goal drive, but the Lions' defense held up late. Bridgewater was not great in the hurry up.

2. With that said, special teams were a huge factor. The Lions blocked a chip shot by Blair Walsh midway through the fourth quarter before the Lions drove for the go ahead field goal. Walsh also missed a Hail Mary kick from 68 yards out as time expired. Walsh was 0-for-3 on field goals. 

3. Matthew Stafford was erratic again. The Lions only threw for 155 yards, with Xavier Rhodes and safety help doing a great job against Calvin Johnson. Reggie Bush remains a total non-factor. After two nice weeks against sub-par defenses, the Lions' passing game came crashing back to earth. It's hard to imagine this group performing well against some of the strong NFC defenses in the playoffs.

4. Oh yeah, the playoffs. Expect the Lions to get there. This was the type of game they would normally blow; they were out-gained 360-233. They are 10-4 and face the hapless Bears next week. We'd be stunned if Chicago beat Detroit. The Lions are back in first place after Green Bay's loss, but it doesn't really matter for the division title. Packers vs. Lions in Week 17 will decide it.

5. Charles Johnson looks like a legitimate starting wide receiver week after week for the Vikings. Bridgewater is not playing with a stacked deck otherwise.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 15 and discusses all the playoff implications. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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