With 23 seconds left Sunday in Minnesota the lead was written: Over the course of 16 games good teams pull out victories they had no business winning.
Sam Bradford's offense was predictably up and down in its first game with Pat Shurmur under center but moved the ball well enough to earn a late-game lead, despite red zone struggles and four points lost on missed kicks.
The Vikings defense gave up a 17-play drive in the first half that ate up 9:45 seconds, but forced four straight three-and-outs to open the second half. Yet, the once dominant Vikings defensive front couldn't penetrate a young Lions offensive line that protected Stafford well. Minnesota sacked Safford just once and earned four quarterback hits. Everson Griffen recorded the sack, earned two tackles for loss among seven takedowns, but the Vikings got little pressure from elsewhere. Harrison Smith uncharacteristically missed four tackles, Xavier Rhodes had a huge penalty in overtime and Anthony Barr's play continues to slide.
"For the first time in three weeks this team fought like how I expect them to fight," coach Mike Zimmer said. "If we continue to do these kinds of things, then we'll win football games."
We've praised Zimmer's squad for battling through adversity all season, but there are no consolation prizes in the NFL. A three-game losing streak is a three-game losing streak.
The Vikings had a win in their grasp that would have given them a cushion in the NFC North. Instead, they let it slip, sliding the division into chaos. With a trip to Washington on deck, Zimmer's squad needs to do more than battle, they need to win.