MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Matthew Stafford says he would like to avoid being down late in the fourth quarter at all costs.
The Detroit Lions quarterback sure looks comfortable in those situations this season. Maybe because he has had plenty of practice.
Stafford threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate, who vaulted into the end zone in overtime to give the Lions a 22-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
After Matt Prater kicked a 58-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter to force overtime, Tate finished the opening drive when he ran through arm tackles by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith and leaped in for the winning score.
"Our guys have been able to do it. Not just do it once or twice, they’ve been able to do it a number of times," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of his team’s ability to come back from fourth-quarter deficits in all five of their victories.
"I do think they have the level of comfort with it. It’s a tough situation to be in, but they don’t flinch and we haven’t had any crucial mistakes in that period of time."
Stafford completed 23 of 36 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Lions (5-4), who have won four of their past five games. Tate had 11 catches for 79 yards.
Sam Bradford completed 31 of 40 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (5-3), who started the season 5-0 but have imploded since coming out of the bye. Stefon Diggs had a career-high 13 catches for 80 yards.
"For the first time in three weeks this team fought like I expected them to fight," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "If we continue to do these kinds of things, we’ll win football games."
Tyrunn Walker blocked a field goal, Kerry Hyder had two sacks and the Lions stuffed the Vikings on fourth-and-1 at the Detroit 5-yard line in the fourth quarter to keep them in position to rally late.
After enduring a tumultuous week , the Vikings took a 16-13 lead with 23 seconds to play on a 1-yard run by Rhett Ellison. But Stafford hit Andre Roberts for 27 yards to set up Prater’s game-tying kick.
In overtime, Stafford hit Eric Ebron for 17 yards on third-and-3, Marvin Jones drew a pass interference call on Rhodes and Tate polished off the stunner with a hard-nosed catch-and-run down the sideline.
"It was kind of planned," Tate said of his flip. "He just kind of accelerated it a little bit."
The Vikings were in business in the second quarter when Chad Greenway intercepted a rushed throw from Stafford and returned it to the Lions 18-yard line. But the offense committed two penalties and Bradford was sacked on third down to turn a first-and-10 at the 18 to a fourth-and-32 from the Lions 40.
The Vikings punted, and Stafford led the Lions on a marathon 17-play, 84-yard drive that took 9:45 off the clock. He hit Anquan Boldin for a 1-yard score with 5 seconds to play in the half, giving Detroit a 10-3 lead going into halftime.
According to Fox Sports, it was the first time a team had to punt after being inside the opponent’s 20-yard line since St. Louis did against Washington in 2011.
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had steadied himself over the previous few weeks after shaky start to the season. But the struggles returned on Sunday. He missed his third extra point of the season — most in the NFL — when he hit the right upright in the third quarter, a miss that prevented the Vikings from tying the score at 10.
Then his 46-yard try in the fourth quarter was blocked by Walker.
"You guys are going to ask me this question a million times: `Did it feel good?’" Walsh snapped. "Did I make it? No. Do I have to? Yes. Do I want to? Yes. So, just, if you’ve got something else, please. Seriously."
Lions: CB Darius Slay (hamstring), LB DeAndre Levy (knee, quad) and OT Riley Reiff (illness) did not play. … CB Nevin Lawson left the game in the fourth quarter with a calf injury.
Vikings: CB Captain Munnerlyn hobbled out of the locker room on crutches with a brace on his right knee. He missed most of the last three quarters. … PR/CB Marcus Sherels also left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter.
Lions: Finally take a bye week before hosting Jacksonville on Nov. 20.