The Detroit Lions will be without their leading rusher for the remainder of the season, however long that is.
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Detroit placed running back Theo Riddick on season-ending injured reserve on Saturday, one day ahead of its crucial Sunday Night Football game against the Packers.
Riddick had already been ruled out of the game earlier in the week with a lingering wrist injury, but his new designation now prevents him from playing in a potential Lions postseason game with cheap jerseys.
The Lions’ running game has been an issue for the team all season. Riddick’s team-leading 357 rushing yards are the lowest total of any team leader in the league. Detroit is the only team in the NFL without a 100-yard rusher since 2014. Also, no Lions back has even rushed for more than 75 yards in a game this season.
So Detroit will have to go at it without Riddick, as the team has since he exited their Week 13 win over the Saints. In his place will be Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington, a Thunder and Lightning pairing of sorts. Washington saw the bulk of the carries in Weeks 14 and 15, while Zenner broke out for 67 yards and two scores last week against the Cowboys.
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The Lions looked ready to feast after knitting together a 12-play, 75-yard opening march that ate nearly eight minutes off the clock. The offense went quiet from there until Detroit punched in two field goals over the final three-plus minutes. Lions passer Matthew Stafford was rightfully agitated to watch Andre Roberts drop a would-be touchdown pass in Vikings territory just before the half. Stafford spent much of the game frustrated as Minnesota’s third-ranked passing defense held him to 232 yards at 5.8 yards per throw with one touchdown. Wideouts Golden Tate (5/77) and Anquan Boldin (7/69) led the way, but Stafford’s offense fizzled up for long stretches against a Vikings unit that notched two sacks and eight quarterback hits while holding the Lions to 24 yards in the second half before those two final Detroit scoring drives.
The Vikings are stuck with a smoke-and-mirrors offense that can’t run the ball and lacks a downfield element when wideout Stefon Diggs is out of the lineup as he was on Thursday. Quarterback Sam Bradford played well before his final interception, putting on a short-game passing clinic to finish 31 of 37 for 224 yards with the pick. Bradford delivered one completion after the next behind a battered line that lost center Joe Berger and tackle Jeremiah Sirles. The offense didn’t convert a third down until nearly 42 minutes into the contest, but those troubles come as no great surprise. This is what the injury-riddled Vikings are in 2016.
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One of the game’s most pivotal sequences came on Minnesota’s first possession. Bradford hit his opening five passes and marched the team deep into Lions territory before losing the ball and NFL jerseys from China on a crushing strip sack by Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah. Game officials reversed the call, but Bradford encountered disaster on the following play, watching his lob to Laquon Treadwell bounce off the rookie’s hands into the arms of Glover Quin. The Lions safety ran it back 71 yards, but the play was erased by a questionable pass interference call on Slay. The Vikings scored a touchdown two plays later to tie the game at 7-7.
Fans can appreciate both teams going for it on fourth down in the first half. The Vikings failed on their attempt on fourth-and-2 at the Detroit 41 as Bradford threw incomplete to Thielen. On the next series, Lions running back Zach Zenner was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 49. With the division lead on the line, both coaches deserve credit for rolling the dice.
For those of us old enough to remember Wayne Fontes, Barry Sanders, Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer, it doesn’t seem that long ago. Chris Spielman was still a spry 28-year-old and first-round pick Ryan McNeil was just beginning a 10-year NFL career (he’s 46 now, by the way).
But some Lions players cannot remember this time because they were not born yet. Here is a list of Detroit players that were not alive the last time their team clinched a division title (back when it was the NFC Central) and a list of players who were not alive the last time they won a playoff game just to remind you that time is more than just a flat circle.