Matt Prater kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired after Darius Slay returned an interception 13 yards with 30 seconds left, lifting the Detroit Lions to a 16-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday and into sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
“I felt pretty confident we were going to close the game out at the end,” Prater said.
Detroit has been doing that a lot this season. The Lions (7-4) have won six of seven, including two against Minnesota this month, despite trailing in the fourth quarter of every game this season.
They extended their NFL record of having their first 11 games decided by seven or fewer points.
“They come from behind every week, so when we took the lead in the fourth quarter, we knew the game wasn't over,” Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “We had to keep playing, but we didn't make enough plays.”
The Vikings (6-5) have lost five of six, plummeting out of first place after surging to the top of the division by winning their first five games.
They could have played for overtime on their last drive, but coach Mike Zimmer allowed Sam Bradford to throw toward the sideline and Slay made him regret it.
“He's as good as they come in those situations,” Lions Coach Jim Caldwell said. “He's kind of got a knack for it. He's a bit of a riverboat gambler.”
The standout cornerback stepped in front of Adam Thielen to pick off the pass and returned it to set up Prater for his fourth game-winning field goal late in games this season.
“I knew they were going to throw,” Slay said. “They didn't want overtime. They know what happened last time.”
Earlier this month, Prater made a game-tying 58-yard field goal at the end of regulation earlier this month at Minnesota and the Lions won in overtime.
Both teams had a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game with Matthew Stafford capping the first possession with a two-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin for the Lions and Matt Asiata ending the second drive with a five-yard run to pull the Vikings into a tie.
Minnesota tied it at 10 midway through the third quarter on Kai Forbath's 30-yard field goal, which was set up by Jerick McKinnon's career-long 41-yard catch.
Forbath put the Vikings ahead for the first time, giving them a 13-10 lead early in the fourth on a 28-yard field goal after Cordarrelle Patterson gained 22 yards on a reverse .
That extended Detroit's run of trailing in the final quarter of every game this season.
And for the seventh time, the Lions rallied for a victory to move a step closer toward winning a division title for the first time since 1993.