Kirk Cousins threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns, lifting the Minnesota Vikings to a 37-35 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday in a matchup of teams finishing disappointing seasons.
The Vikings (7-9) failed for the fourth time in a decade to make two straight trips to the playoffs. They won five of six midway through the season to return to the postseason race, but dashed hopes by losing three straight before closing with a win at Detroit.
The Lions (5-11) lost their last four games eight of 10 after going into November with a .500 record under former coach Matt Patricia.
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Detroit’s defense broke franchise records by allowing 519 points and 6,716 yards, breaking marks set by its winless team in 2008 and ranking among the worst in NFL history.
In a matchup without postseason implications, the Vikings and Lions combined to play a closely contested game with a lot of highlights and lowlights.
Alexander Mattison ran for 16 yards to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Lions 25 with 2:28 left, allowing the Vikings to run out the clock to seal the win. The second-year running back ran for 95 yards and a third-quarter touchdown and turned a short pass on fourth down into a 28-yard score in the first quarter.
Mattison filled in for running back Dalvin Cook, who missed the game following the death of his father.
Cousins was 28 of 40 and didn’t throw an interception, finishing with his highest total of yards passing since Sept. 27, 2018.
Justin Jefferson had nine receptions for 133 yards, breaking the NFL rookie record for yards receiving set by Anquan Boldin in 2003.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford — playing with ankle, rib, and thumb injuries — was 20 of 31 for 293 yards with three touchdowns. In possibly his last game with the Lions, he threw an interception that led to Dan Bailey’s field goal that put the Vikings ahead 31-23 in the third quarter.
Marvin Jones had eight receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions.
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Vikings: Four injured starters on defense were inactive: cornerback Cameron Dantzler (hamstring), defensive ends Jalyn Holmes (groin) and defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo (chest) along with linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf).
Lions: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai and OG Jonah Jackson left the game with concussions. DT Nick Williams had an ankle injury during the game. WR Kenny Golladay was inactive and was limited to just five games because of a hip injury after leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns last season.
The Vikings will pick in the top half of the first round for the first time since 2015, when they picked cornerback Trae Waynes at 11th overall. They have significant needs on the defensive line and to a lesser extent the offensive line.
The Lions have been looking for a new general manager and evaluating potential coaching candidates since firing Bob Quinn and Patricia in November. The searches should kick up a notch now that the regular season is over.