Golden Tate, who effectively was benched earlier this season, made one of the plays of the 2016 NFL season in overtime as the Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings, 22-16, in a stunner at US Bank Stadium.
Tate caught a pass on the left sideline, forced two missed tackles, managed to tip-toe the sideline and stay inbounds and trip the light fantastic into the end zone, capping his score with an incredible, body-sacrificing dive as he crossed the end zone. Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo couldn’t get there fast enough after Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith whiffed on Tate, and he absorbed a big hit mid-air on the game-winning play.
The Vikings dropped their third straight and are now 5-3. Amazing, the Lions now have won four of five games after a 1-3 start and sit half a game back at 5-4 in the suddenly shaky NFC North.
When Shutdown Corner voted for its plays of the season through the halfway point this past week, we had limited choices. Tate’s touchdown almost certainly would have had serious support had it come prior to Sunday. Not bad for a player who was benched in the second half of a loss to the Chicago Bears for running a bad route that led to a Matthew Stafford pick.
The hero in Sunday’s game almost was — who? — Rhett Ellison. The Vikings turned to a player with two catches this season on a critical play — third-and-goal from the 1 with 27 seconds left in regulation, down four points. A jet sweep to a little-used tight end for his first NFL carry? Why not? Norv Turner is gone, after all.
Ellison crossed the plane of the goal line before the ball was jarred loose, and the review called it a go-ahead touchdown for the offensively starved Vikings, who watched Turner step down this past week as the team’s play-caller, giving way to Pat Shurmur.
The results? The Vikings averaged 293.3 yards of offense and 19.9 points per game coming in. On Sunday, they tallied 259 and 16 entering overtime.
The Lions were not a lot better. But they gained 122 yards on 13 plays (not counting clocking the ball) in the final 23 seconds of regulation, plus 6:26 of OT to win the game. Tate caught a team-high 11 passes for 79 yards — with 28 of them coming on the game-winning score.
The kicking game was a huge development. The game went to overtime on a 58-yard field goal by Lions kicker Matt Prater as time expired in regulation. Earlier, Prater hit a 47- and a 53-yarder and was perfect on his three FG tries and his only extra-point attempt. Pair that with his counterpart, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point — his third such miss this season, which is the most in the NFL.
Stafford took what he was given against a stingy Vikings defense most of the game, but it was one that broke down late several times. Tate’s score changed the landscape of the NFC North race dramatically.
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