Vikings close Metrodome by beating Lions
In the final game of the season, in a game that mattered little, Minnesota Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson showed he is a player with an almost unlimited future.
But who will be coaching him and passing him the ball in the near future remains to be seen.
Patterson ended his first NFL season by running for one score and catching a pass for another as Minnesota ended its time in the Metrodome with a 14-13 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Oh, and he also set a franchise record in kick return yardage.
Patterson had a 50-yard first-quarter run for a score that gave the Vikings (5-10-1) a 7-0 lead. And he caught an 8-yard scoring pass from quarterback Matt Cassel with 9:19 left in the game at the Dome's Mall of America Field. The catch came two plays after Marcus Sherels' 50-yard punt return gave the Vikings a first-and-goal from the 8 and ended a run of 13 straight Lions points.
"What a great way to close out the Metrodome," said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. "I'm so proud of our players, being able to focus on this game, not get caught up in anything else."
There was a lot to get caught up with, on both sides.
The Vikings, playing in their last game in the Dome after 32 seasons, stumbled a season after reaching the playoffs and the Lions bumbled after being in position to get there this year.
Perhaps that's why, in a game with no playoff implications, with both teams missing key players -- wide receiver Calvin Johnson for Detroit and running back Adrian Peterson for Minnesota -- the biggest suspense centered on what shoes would fall Monday.
The jobs of both Frazier and Lions coach Jim Schwartz are reportedly in jeopardy. And, for the Vikings, a decision has to be made at quarterback, and that includes Cassel, who has a player option to return next season.
"I have a contract and our staff has a contract for 2014," Frazier said. "I hope the Wilf family will honor that, give us a chance to come back next season and try to get our quarterback situation fixed, try to get our roster fixed. I hope they'll give the staff a chance to finish what we have started."
For Detroit, with the playoffs within reach, it was another collapse, with four straight losses and six in seven games to end the season.
"I'd certainly like to be back," Schwartz said. "I think we have unfinished business here. (But) we can't worry about decisions that we don't make."
One thing appears certain: Patterson should be a player to be reckoned with going forward.
In a first half in which the Vikings outgained the Lions 241 yards to 56, the only score came on Patterson's play, when he lined up in the slot and took a pitch. It was his option to run or pass. He saw nobody open, got a block from Cassel, reversed field and was off for a 50-yard score, the longest run by a Vikings receiver in franchise history.
The second half appeared to be a complete reverse. It was the Lions moving the ball, with quarterback Matthew Stafford leading the Lions on three straight scoring drives. Stafford, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 217 yards (all but 43 in the second half), hit 5 of 6 for 70 yards in an 85-yard scoring drive to start the second half that tied the game 7-7 on his 19-yard pass to running back Reggie Bush.
The Lions' next possession ended with Dave Akers' 25-yard field goal, and the Lions made it 13-7 two plays after Vikings running back Matt Asiata fumbled the ball.
Midway through the final quarter the Vikings forced a Lions punt, which Sherels returned 50 yards. Two plays later Patterson put the team ahead for good. Asiata, who finished with 115 yards on 14 carries, had 46 of those as the Vikings ground down the clock.
"It was a great game for us, and it gave us another great memory in the dome," Patterson said. "Now we have to get ready for next year.''
One that could be big for Patterson.
"If he stays healthy, the sky is the limit," Frazier said. "He's a very talented young man."
Now the clock is on the owners of both teams to make a decision on their coaches going forward.
"He's been consistent with his message, week in and week out through the tough season we've had," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said of Frazier. "It kept us together through the season."
Whether either team's coaching staff keeps together is yet to be seen.
"We were right there," Lions guard Rob Sims said. "We worked ourselves to get into a good position and to fall apart at the end like this stings."
NOTES: Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson scored his third rushing touchdown of the season on a 50-yarder in the first quarter, which set franchise records for longest run by a receiver and number of touchdown runs by a receiver in a season. His 20-yard kickoff return in the second half gave him a new team record for most kickoff return yards in a season, breaking Buster Rhymes' 1985 record. ... Lions WR Calvin Johnson, listed as questionable on the Lions' injury report, was deactivated because of the knee injury that kept him out of practice all week. Johnson entered the final week of the regular season second in the NFL with 1,492 receiving yards, but has battled a sore right knee since September. CB Chris Houston (toe), OT LeAdrian Waddle (ankle) were also out for the Lions. ... RB Adrian Peterson (groin, foot), was inactive for the Vikings, meaning two of the NFL's best offensive players were not available Sunday. Peterson finishes the season with 1,266 yards on 279 carries. He was third in the league in rushing entering the weekend. CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle), DT Letroy Guion (quad), MLB Audie Cole (ankle) and RB Toby Gerhart (hamstring) were also out for Minnesota. ... Former Vikings C Matt Birk was the honorary team captain. ... Vikings DE Jared Allen reached double figures in sacks Sunday, something he has done every year since 2007. ... Lions RBs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell became the first tandem to each get 500 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
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