NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford rolled out to the right on the game’s final play — and didn’t even have enough room to set himself for a desperate final heave.
The Detroit quarterback was sacked, ending a lackluster day for what was supposed to be such a powerful offense.
“It’s frustrating,” Stafford said. “We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We deserve our record.”
The Lions trailed from the opening kickoff, and unlike in the past, their offense wasn’t up to the challenge when it came time for a fourth-quarter rally.
The Minnesota Vikings held on for a 20-13 victory Sunday, and Detroit has to wonder if a chance at a second straight playoff berth is already slipping away.
The Lions (1-3) have next weekend off — then play four of five games on the road.
“We didn’t start off the way we wanted to. That’s not to say we can’t get it back. That’s s our challenge right now — to dig our way out of this,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “There’s a reason we’re 1-3. We made ourselves have to overcome way too much.”
Detroit lost 44-41 in overtime last weekend to Tennessee. This one wasn’t a shootout by any means — Minnesota’s only touchdowns came on a kickoff return by Percy Harvin and a punt return by Marcus Sherels.
Detroit has struggled with poor coverage on special teams. The Lions gave up scores on a kickoff and punt in last week’s game as well. They are the first team since at least 1940 to give up a kickoff and a punt return for TDs in consecutive games, according to STATS LLC.
“All special teams need to get their act together because we’re good but we’re garbage right now,” kicker Jason Hanson said. “And we’re killing our team. So I hope everybody takes it personally.”
NFC North-leading Minnesota (3-1) matched the number of wins it had last season. The Vikings also snapped an 11-game losing streak within the division.
The Lions have lost three straight since edging St. Louis 27-23 in their opener with a last-minute touchdown.
Adrian Peterson had 102 yards rushing on 21 carries for Minnesota. Christian Ponder was 16 of 26 for 111 yards.
Harvin returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, and on the first punt return of the second half, Sherels made Kassim Osgood miss and then wiggled through traffic and raced 77 yards for a TD that gave the Vikings a 20-6 lead.
“Opened the game with a kickoff return and opened the second half with a punt return,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “You talk about starting fast, that’s exactly what happened on both of those occasions.”
Stafford was 30 of 51 for 319 yards without much help from teammates.
Brandon Pettigrew dropped a pass in the end zone, forcing Detroit to settle for a field goal and a 13-6 halftime deficit. Titus Young couldn’t catch a pass thrown right to him on third down, leading to the Lions punting from Minnesota territory for the second straight time in the third quarter.
And, just when the Lions looked as if they were going to break through offensively, Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford forced Mikel Leshoure to fumble and recovered the ball at the Minnesota 29 late in the third.
Leshoure ran for just 26 yards on 13 carries after having 100 yards rushing in his debut last week.
Detroit drove to the Minnesota 7 in the fourth, but the possession ended when unblocked defensive end Everson Griffen sacked Stafford on fourth down.
The Lions got right back down in scoring territory and didn’t waste the opportunity with Stafford scoring on a 1-yard lunge, snapping the ball and extending it over the pile on a play that stood after video review with 2:56 left in the game.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe pinned Detroit on its 2 with 1:42 left and no timeouts. A last-ditch drive was extended when Stafford’s fumble was overturned by review — because he was down before losing the ball — with 9 seconds left.
Stafford took the last snap from the Detroit 44 and was sacked in a fitting end to a game dominated by Minnesota’s defense and special teams.
“It was us,” Stafford said. “That’s a good defense — they have good personnel — but they play the same two coverages the whole game and, other than one blitz on the goal line, that’s two games in a row without a blitz. Nobody wants to blitz us.”
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