Lions-Vikings: What we learned

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the final game of the season, in a game that mattered little, Minnesota Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson showed he is a player with an almost unlimited future.
But who will be coaching him and passing him the ball in the near future remains to be seen.
Patterson ended his first NFL season by running for one score and catching a pass for another as Minnesota ended its time in the Metrodome with a 14-13 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Oh, and he also set a franchise record in kick return yardage.
Patterson had a 50-yard first-quarter run for a score that gave the Vikings (5-10-1) a 7-0 lead. And he caught an 8-yard scoring pass from quarterback Matt Cassel with 9:19 left in the game at the Dome's Mall of America Field. The catch came two plays after Marcus Sherels' 50-yard punt return gave the Vikings a first-and-goal from the 8 and ended a run of 13 straight Lions points.
"What a great way to close out the Metrodome," said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. "I'm so proud of our players, being able to focus on this game, not get caught up in anything else."
There was a lot to get caught up with, on both sides.
The Vikings, playing in their last game in the Dome after 32 seasons, stumbled a season after reaching the playoffs and the Lions bumbled after being in position to get there this year.
Perhaps that's why, in a game with no playoff implications, with both teams missing key players -- wide receiver Calvin Johnson for Detroit and running back Adrian Peterson for Minnesota -- the biggest suspense centered on what shoes would fall Monday.
The jobs of both Frazier and Lions coach Jim Schwartz are reportedly in jeopardy. And, for the Vikings, a decision has to be made at quarterback, and that includes Cassel, who has a player option to return next season.
"I have a contract and our staff has a contract for 2014," Frazier said. "I hope the Wilf family will honor that, give us a chance to come back next season and try to get our quarterback situation fixed, try to get our roster fixed. I hope they'll give the staff a chance to finish what we have started."
For Detroit, with the playoffs within reach, it was another collapse, with four straight losses and six in seven games to end the season.
"I'd certainly like to be back," Schwartz said. "I think we have unfinished business here. (But) we can't worry about decisions that we don't make."
One thing appears certain: Patterson should be a player to be reckoned with going forward.
In a first half in which the Vikings outgained the Lions 241 yards to 56, the only score came on Patterson's play, when he lined up in the slot and took a pitch. It was his option to run or pass. He saw nobody open, got a block from Cassel, reversed field and was off for a 50-yard score, the longest run by a Vikings receiver in franchise history.
The second half appeared to be a complete reverse. It was the Lions moving the ball, with quarterback Matthew Stafford leading the Lions on three straight scoring drives. Stafford, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 217 yards (all but 43 in the second half), hit 5 of 6 for 70 yards in an 85-yard scoring drive to start the second half that tied the game 7-7 on his 19-yard pass to running back Reggie Bush.

What the Lions said
"Obviously not satisfied with our record, but the effort and preparation of this team (was good). We were in every single football game we played this year. We had a chance to win all of them. We didn't win as many as we probably should have or could have.'' -- Quarterback Matthew Stafford.

What the Vikings said
"I grew up in Minnesota all my life and I've seen the dome all that time. It's going to be missed.'' -- Cornerback/punt returner Marcus Sherels, a Minnesota native.
''I know the last six years here have been amazing. I could not have asked for more from this organization and I could not have asked more from this state.'' -- Defensive end Jared Allen, who may have played his last game in a Vikings uniform.

What we learned about the Lions
1. We know just how important wide receiver Calvin Johnson is to the Lions. Without him, they managed one touchdown and just 13 points. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was ineffective for much of the game and at times looked lost.
2. The Lions will have to take a hard look at quarterback Matthew Stafford and the place he has in the team's future. After appearing on the verge of becoming one of the league's elite quarterbacks, Stafford stumbled down the stretch.

What we learned about the Vikings
1. Despite all the problems, the Vikings played hard for coach Leslie Frazier down the stretch. The Vikings, despite injuries and quarterback uncertainty, finished 3-3-1 down the stretch.
2. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson could be the next big thing to hit Minnesota. His 50-yard touchdown run was a franchise record for Vikings receivers and his three rushing touchdowns were, too. He had multiple scores returning kicks, receiving and running.

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