DETROIT – Jared Goff dropped back behind an offensive line that gave him plenty of time and threw deep twice, taking advantage of big-play receivers the Detroit Lions added for him this season.
Goff had a 41-yard pass to rookie Jameson Williams and a 48-yard pass to DJ Chark for two of his three touchdown throws in the first half, leading the surging Lions to a 34-23 win over the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The Vikings (10-3) needed a win or tie to clinch the division title. Kirk Cousins threw for 425 yards, including a franchise-record 223 to Justin Jefferson on 11 catches. But Dalvin Cook ran for just 23 yards on 15 carries, and Minnesota couldn’t stop Goff.
The Lions (6-7) have won five of six, their best stretch since their last postseason appearance in 2016. They have scored 25-plus points in five straight games for the first time since 1954.
Detroit traded up to draft Williams 12th overall and signed Chark to a $10 million, one-year deal in free agency, believing they would bounce back from injuries.
“It changes our offense entirely when you have guys that are legit, vertical, home-run threats," said Goff, who was 27 of 39 for 330 yards. “We were able to show them both off to make those splash plays.”
Chark finished with a season-high six catches and 94 yards, showing what he can do after he was limited to playing four games in Jacksonville last year because of a broken ankle.
Williams had his first NFL reception a week after making his Detroit debut, 11 months after injuring his left knee playing for Alabama in the NCAA national championship game.
“You can make up for things if you’re able to get the explosive passes, which we got," coach Dan Campbell said.
Minnesota’s passing game did its part, but Cook struggled behind a banged-up line.
“We got to be better if we want to punch our ticket into the playoffs," coach Kevin O'Connell said.
Cousins was 30-of-40 passing with touchdowns to K.J. Osborn and Adam Thielen, and Jefferson broke the team's receiving yards mark set by Sammy White in 1976 against Detroit.
“He's one of these dudes you don't see very often,” Campbell said. “He's making plays in double coverage.”
Cook's 1.5-yard average was his lowest in a game with at least 10 carries in his six-year career. On the opening possession, Cook was stopped on a fourth-and-1 near midfield in a preview of what was to come. He also fumbled at the Detroit 6 late in the first half.
“There was some positive performances from some individual players and some things that gave us a chance to be in the football game,” O'Connell said. “But just across the board, not enough in the run game offensively and a pretty critical turnover."
Goff gave Detroit a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter with a 5-yard pass to Josh Reynolds after Campbell called a fake punt from his 26.
On another play that fooled Minnesota, Goff converted third-and-7 from the Minnesota 41 with a 9-yard pass to offensive tackle Penei Sewell. He was an eligible receiver sent in motion and his catch set up Michael Badgley's field goal with 17 seconds left.
Vikings: Starting FS Harrison Smith (neck), C Garrett Bradbury (back), OT Christian Darrisaw (concussion) were inactive. ... The banged-up offensive line took another hit in the fourth quarter when Blake Brandel left with a knee injury. ... LB Jordan Hicks (left foot) and CB Kris Boyd (knee contusion) were also injured during the game. ... CB Cameron Dantzler (ankle) returned from a four-game absence on IR and seemed to get beat deep on Detroit’s touchdown passes in the first half.
Lions: Key backups OLB Derrick Barnes (knee) and OG Evan Brown (ankle) were inactive.
Vikings: Host Indianapolis on Saturday.
Lions: Play at the New York Jets on Sunday.
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