Vikings @ Lions
In a game with absolutely zero playoff implications, this game was a shootout that came down to the wire. The Vikings were playing in order to help get Justin Jefferson the NFL record for most receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history, and Jefferson delivered on the day to achieve his goal.
Justin Jefferson @JJettas2 just passed Anquan Boldin for the most receiving yards by a rookie in the Superbowl era 1,379
The 5th WR taken in the 2020 NFL Draft is a star in the making. These shoes are surely going to the #NFL Hall of Fame!!
— Sportsman Nate (@foursticks_nate) January 3, 2021
The game was a back and forth matchup and the result would have been in Detroit’s favor had it not been for two absolutely atrocious calls by the officials. We’ll get to those in a moment, but Kirk Cousins and Alexander Mattison stepped up on Sunday and deserved to win this football game. Minnesota held on to win 37-35.
Kirk Cousins: 28/40, 405 yards, 3 TDs, 3 sacks | 5 carries, 1 yard, TD
On the very first play of the game, Kirk Cousins tripped over himself, stumbled to the ground, got back up and threw a dart to Irv Smith Jr. to keep the play alive. He then went on to have his next two passes tipped at the line and also trip over his own offensive lineman. It was a sloppy start to the game and Cousins looked like he was headed for a disappointing day. Then he started looking Justin Jefferson‘s way and connected with him on a couple key third-down strikes. Jefferson fumbled on the second one, but it was recovered by a teammate and the Vikings faced a 4th and 2 on the Lions’ 28 yard line. With nothing to lose, they went for it. It worked.
— QB List (@TheQBlist) January 3, 2021
The offense looked much, much better after this touchdown by Alexander Mattison. In fact, the Vikings didn’t punt for the rest of the day. Cousins rebounded from the slow start to throw for three TDs in the first half and his 1st-half line of 19/26 for 260 yards and 3 TD was nearly as good as his best game of the entire season.
Just before halftime, Cousins led the Vikings down the field attempting to get into field goal range. He connected with Chad Beebe for a catch on the sideline, but Beebe avoided two tackles and scampered into the endzone for a long touchdown.
What an end to the half courtesy of Chad Beebe! pic.twitter.com/bADgYoy8rF
— Minnesota Vikings UK (@UKVikings) January 3, 2021
This was kind of the story of the day for Cousins – he put them in positions to score, but his teammates were the ones who stepped up and made plays while Cousins benefited from it. He was nearly picked off near the end of the third quarter on what likely should have been a pick-6 on a screen pass, as he threw it directly into the gut of a Lions’ defender who simply couldn’t hold onto the ball. Mattison and Mike Boone would take the Vikings down the field to give them a chance to punch it into the endzone, but the Lions’ defense held up, stuffed a few runs, and set themselves up for a fourth and goal play.
Then this happened.
THE WORST CALL I EVER SAW GET THIS REF OFF MY TV TOTAL GARBAGE pic.twitter.com/sUgJdewXhL
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 3, 2021
Cousins was sacked on the play but he got bailed out by an absolutely terrible roughing the passer call. This should have been a turnover on downs and Lions’ football, but instead, Cousins snuck the ball in for a rushing TD two plays later. It was an unreal turn of events that significantly boosted Cousins’ final fantasy output.
— QB List (@TheQBlist) January 3, 2021
Cousins’ final line was fantastic for fantasy purposes, but it could have been worse had it not been for some timely plays by his skill players and bad officiating. If you rolled the dice with him this week you were likely very satisfied (I know I was), but we all know these games are few and far between for him.
Alexander Mattison: 21 carries, 95 yards, TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 50 yards, TD
Mike Boone: 5 carries, 29 yards
Ameer Abdullah: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 7 yards, TD
C.J. Ham: 2 receptions, 44 yards
After the death of his father, Dalvin Cook missed this game but Minnesota made it work without him. Alexander Mattison stepped in for his second start of the season and, unlike his first start where he put up a dud, he delivered in this one for both the Vikings and fantasy managers alike. Another five yards for a 100-yard day on the ground would have been a nice bonus, but two TDs from scrimmage and eight points in the receiving game were a nice consolation. It didn’t look good early, as Detroit’s defense actually showed up to play and they bottled Mattison up on Minnesota’s first couple drives. But that all changed after Mattison’s receiving TD on 4th down which appeared to take the wind out of the sails of the Detroit defense. Minnesota relied on Mattison on the final drive to eat up some chunk yards and stay inbounds to seal a victory, and he did just that.
The rest of the Minnesota backfield also got involved, too. Ameer Abdullah vultured a touchdown on a play that looked like it was meant to go to Justin Jefferson.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 3, 2021
Meanwhile, Mike Boone ran with power whenever he touched the football, and C.J. Ham got involved in the receiving game. When I say Detroit’s defense gave up in this one, I mean it.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Justin Jefferson: 12 targets, 9 receptions, 133 yards
Adam Thielen: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 57 yards
Chad Beebe: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 44 yards, TD
Irv Smith Jr.: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 30 yards
Tyler Conklin: 6 targets, 3 receptions, 40 yards
This game was the Justin Jefferson show. He was all over the field with his dope shoes and the only thing missing was a signature long touchdown that simply never came. Fantasy managers who started him on Sunday were still happy with the output and Jefferson is likely going to be an early-round target in 2021.
Adam Thielen had a pedestrian game by his standards, but he did have a touchdown knocked away in the endzone that could have made his day easier to swallow. Otherwise, there wasn’t much going on for him so there’s not much else to say. Kyle Rudolph missed this game with a foot injury, which meant it was Irv Smith Jr. who ended up getting the start at TE. After catching the first pass of the game, he only caught one more the rest of the day and he ended up putting up a dud.
Matthew Stafford: 20/31, 293 yards, 3 TD, INT, sack | 2 carries, 9 yards
Despite spending the entire week on the injury report and looking like he wouldn’t suit up, Matthew Stafford toughed it out in typical Stafford form and performed admirably. He connected with Marvin Jones Jr. for two touchdowns and Quintez Cephus for a third, but it was the third touchdown to Jones that got called back on review which would have ultimately catapulted this good game to a great one for Stafford.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) January 3, 2021
This was the second bad call by the officiating crew that left me scratching my head. You can just barely see it at the end of this GIF, but as Jones fell to the ground the ball bounced up into his body. The officials ruled it incomplete and said it hit the ground, but it still looks to me like it actually bounced off of Jones’ arm rather than the ground. This one may not be an egregiously bad call, but it still had a major impact on both Jones and Stafford’s fantasy days.
It wasn’t all good for Stafford, as he did throw a bad interception and nearly threw a second. Deep in his own territory in the 3rd quarter, Stafford stared down Marvin Jones on a pass over the middle and Harrison Smith came up to pick it off. He also threw a pass earlier in the game that went right through a defender’s hands. Stafford is a trick-or-treat player and seems to always do well in shootouts, and Sunday was no different.
D’Andre Swift: 12 carries, 54 yards, TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 16 yards
Adrian Peterson: 7 carries, 63 yards, TD
It was a disappointing day for D’Andre Swift, mainly due to the fact that Detroit simply had to throw the ball early and often in this one and Swift wasn’t really a part of that success. After catching four of five targets in each of his last three games, that number dropped to three catches on three targets in this one. It’s not a huge drop, but one would think that Detroit would want to get the ball in one of their best playmaker’s hands. He did salvage the day with a two-yard TD run to make it a two-point game, but it was too little, too late.
Adrian Peterson had a 38 yard run on the first play of the 2nd quarter, seen below. He also scored a TD in the third quarter, the first of his career against his former team. He looked good in his limited carries and he should find his way onto an NFL roster in 2021.
— NFL (@NFL) January 3, 2021
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marvin Jones Jr.: 11 targets, 8 receptions, 180 yards, 2 TDs
Danny Amendola: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards
T.J. Hockenson: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 25 yards
Mohammed Sanu Sr.: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 13 yards | 1 carry, 3 yards
Quintez Cephus: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 51 yards, TD
We should have known that, in the last game of the season when most fantasy leagues have already crowned a champion, Marvin Jones Jr. would have one of his trademarked blow up games when nobody can really reap the rewards. Here’s his first of two touchdowns, on a route where he simply beat the coverage and smartly extended the ball over the goal line before he stepped out of bounds.
— QB List (@TheQBlist) January 3, 2021
For his second touchdown, Jones beat a defender on a sick move that caused him to fall to the ground in spectacular fashion.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 3, 2021
As mentioned above, he still could have had a third TD but regardless, it was a fantastic game against a putrid Minnesota secondary. Jones is an unrestricted free agent in 2021, and at 30 years old he clearly still has some gas in the tank. Expect a team to spend a good amount of cash on him this offseason.
Quintez Cephus scored a nice touchdown in the 2nd quarter, and with both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones hitting free agency, we could see a lot more of this in 2021. There’s a chance that he’s WR1 for this offense next season, and if that’s the case then it would have been nice to see him more involved in this one. My guess is that one of Jones or Golladay will be back, leaving Cephus as WR2 in this offense and a decent shot at a breakout.
Matthew Stafford to Cephus 👀.
Touchdown Lions. That was nice 9️⃣.
— Mike Archambeau #OnePride DETROITLIONSvsEVERYBODY (@archambeaum3) January 3, 2021
— Ben Brown (@FelixTheDog23 on Twitter, iamatechnician on Reddit)