Vikings sign off with win
The Minnesota Vikings fittingly left the Metrodome with one more victory over the Detroit Lions.
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Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson scored two more touchdowns, including the go-ahead catch in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the Vikings beat the Lions 14-13 on Sunday afternoon in the final game at the Teflon-topped stadium after 32 seasons.
With both the Vikings (5-10-1) and the Lions (7-9) out of the play-offs, both coaches also faced the possibility of their last full day with their teams. Jim Schwartz fell to 29-52 in five years with the Lions. Leslie Frazier raised his record with the Vikings in three-plus years to 21-33-1. Each of them has reached the play-offs once.
The building will be torn down next month to make room for a new domed venue on the same site. The Vikings will play outside for the next two seasons at the University of Minnesota's facility.
Calvin Johnson was held out because of a nagging knee injury by the Lions, who finished with six losses in their last seven games. Matthew Stafford completed 22 of 33 passes for 217 yards and a third-quarter touchdown pass on third-and-4 from the 19 to Reggie Bush, who slipped a tackle attempt by Jared Allen and sprinted into the end zone.
Allen had two sacks, though, to pass the double-digit mark for the seventh straight season. With Adrian Peterson watching on the sideline, due to a sprained foot, third-stringer Matt Asiata rushed 14 times for 115 yards for the Vikings.
Cassel, despite an earlier interception he threw in the end zone, had the winning scoring pass. He was the quarterback at the end of all five Vikings victories this year, two of them in injury relief of Christian Ponder. The Vikings also narrowly avoided setting a franchise record for most points allowed, leaving the 1984 team the holder of that dubious mark. This still might not have been enough to save Frazier's job, however.
The Lions beat Chicago twice and were really roaring after a 40-10 dismantling of Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day, but Schwartz's status grew more tenuous by the day in December as this talented team fell apart again.
With one more win prior to this game, the Lions would've been able to become division champions for the first time in 20 years by beating the Vikings. Instead, the Bears and Packers played for the NFC North crown. Schwartz's winning percentage is the worst by an NFL coach in his first full five years, according to STATS research, since John McKay with expansion Tampa Bay from 1976-80.
The fans, taking advantage of this controlled climate one last time with the temperature outside below zero, cheered the highlights and booed the bad plays like the Vikings were still contending. Most of the afternoon, though, had the feel of an exhibition game.
Allen lined up at tight end on a first-and-goal play in the second quarter, and Matt Cassel found him open in the back of the end zone but overthrew the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end.
Patterson wasn't even ready for the opening kick-off, slapping the goal post and trying to fire up fans behind him when the ball sailed in the end zone and was caught by Chase Ford for a touchback. Patterson quickly refocused, though, to add some more fuel for his Offensive Rookie of the Year Award case.
Late in the first quarter, he took a pitch in the backfield, immediately reversed course and ran right toward the sideline. He slipped between Ndamukong Suh and Devin Taylor, then snaked his way through the rest of the defense for a 50-yard gain, the longest rushing play in Vikings history by a wide receiver.
Then early in the fourth quarter, Patterson caught an eight-yard pass in the corner of the end zone on a perfect fade throw by Cassel to put the Vikings up 14-13. That was set up by a 50-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels.