NFL Week 17 PFF ReFocused: Minnesota Vikings 37, Detroit Lions 35

Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) celebrates his touchdown with center Garrett Bradbury (L) and quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

This game made up for the fact that it had no postseason implications by lighting up the scoreboard in a back-and-forth affair. The Minnesota Vikings secured the 37-35 victory, while the Detroit Lions solidified a top-10 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft with the loss.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.


This game was not lacking for offense on either side. 

Matthew Stafford was back to firing the ball deep, with an average depth of target nearly 17 yards downfield, and Marvin Jones was his top target on those looks. The two combined for eight completions on 11 targets for 180 yards and two touchdowns. They narrowly missed on a third touchdown following that was overturned upon review. If this is the last game those two play together in Detroit, it wasn’t a bad way to go out. 

On the other side, Kirk Cousins averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt himself — throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another. The Lions' pass defense has struggled mightily all season, and it had yet another dismal outing. They will likely end the season ranked dead last in EPA allowed per pass play (0.364).  

Minnesota received a fourth-quarter gift in the form of a roughing the passer call that was questionable at best. The call gave the Vikings a fresh set of downs at the goal line when the ball should have gone back to Detroit following a fourth-down sack by Tracy Walker. Given how the Lions’ offense was clicking, a no-call on that play very well could have resulted in a Detroit win rather than a two-point loss following a failed two-point conversion.  


Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs after a catch toward Detroit Lions defensive back Tracy Walker (21) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It was only fitting that Justin Jefferson finished the season with another strong performance given how dominant he has been for much of his rookie season. The rookie brought down nine of 12 targets for 133 yards. That was good enough to not only break Randy Moss franchise rookie receiving yardage record but also to break the league-wide record previously held by Anquan Boldin

Of the two rookie guards — Jonah Jackson and Ezra Cleveland — Cleveland put forth the better performance in pass protection. Pending final review, Jackson was charged with four pressures allowed against a Vikings defensive front that struggled to generate pressure all season. If that figure holds, it would tie the most pressures Jackson has allowed in a single game this season.

Jeff Gladney and Harrison Hand both drew starts at cornerback for Minnesota — Gladney in the slot and Hand outside. Gladney had some success inside, allowing just one reception for seven yards into his coverage on 20-plus slot coverage snaps, pending final review. 

D.J. Wonnum and John Penisini both saw extensive playing time along the defensive line, as well. The two combined for just one pressure and two run stops on 98 defensive snaps (51 for Wonnum and 48 for Penisini). 

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