MINNEAPOLIS—The flashy yellow gloves of Adam Thielen helped vault him among the NFL's leaders in receiving yards this season, but they let him down late Sunday, Oct. 1, against the Detroit Lions.
Down by seven in the fourth quarter, the fourth-year receiver hauled in the first play of Minnesota's final push to close the deficit. But as Thielen turned upfield, Detroit safety Glover Quin punched the ball out from behind. Tahir Whitehead fell on the ball for the Lions, and the Vikings fell to 2-2 on the season with a 14-7 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota's offense was hit or miss throughout, but it was able to put pressure on the Lions (3-1) late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Case Keenum hit Kyle Rudolph for a pair of first downs to push the ball inside the Detroit 10 yard line, but Keenum was sacked on an all-out blitz to force fourth down, on which the Vikings failed to convert.
"We were moving the ball and making some plays downfield," Thielen said. "We had some good play calls, but we didn't execute. That's something we've talked about for a long time. When we have the ball close to the end zone, we have to execute and we have to score."
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Minnesota got the ball with 1:51 left in the game, but the Thielen fumble gave it back to Detroit to effectively end the game.
"We'll try to continue to get better," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. "I thought the defensive guys, they played well. I thought the offense played well. We just turned the ball over. We didn't execute enough on that side of the ball."
Thielen's turnover was the third lost fumble for Minnesota in the second half. Jerick McKinnon botched a handoff in wildcat formation early in the third quarter, and rookie Dalvin Cook dropped the ball to clutch his left knee in pain on the following drive.
Zimmer said the team was "concerned" Cook's injury is his ACL, and that he would undergo an MRI on Monday to assess the damage.
"I told him, he's not the first great running back to have an ACL (tear) if that is one, and come back pretty good," Zimmer said. "Dalvin will have a great career."
Cook scored the lone Minnesota touchdown, a 5-yard run in the second quarter, and finished with 74 total yards.
"You feel for a guy like Dalvin, who is an extremely hard worker and a good guy," Thielen said. "You hope everything is alright, and we're praying for him."
Keenum, coming off a career game, was only able to manage 16 completions for 219 yards. He was sacked twice, but did not commit a turnover. Stefon Diggs had five catches for 98 yards, while Thielen turned his five catches into 59 yards.
Minnesota set the tone early on defense, with Danielle Hunter sacking Matthew Stafford, the NFL's highest paid player, on the first play from scrimmage.
But while the Vikings were able to generate sustained pressure throughout the game — Stafford was sacked six times — the defense also failed to capitalize on Stafford's errors, as defenders dropped four passes that could have turned into interceptions.
"We lost as a team and we just need to get better," said cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who has a Stafford ball slip between his hands. "We missed out on a lot of turnovers... we have to look at the film and correct where we messed up, and definitely need to win the turnover battle."
Ameer Abdullah scored the lone touchdown for Detroit, finishing with 94 yards on 20 carries. Stafford was 19-for-31 for 209 yards.
"We knew it was going to be tough. Not a lot of teams come in here and run the ball effectively," Lions guard T.J. Lang said. "There are certainly some things we're going to need to clean up, but I'm happy for Ameer."