Playoff-bound Lions lose record-breaking rookie Sam LaPorta to knee injury in 30-20 win over Vikings
Published 3:42 pm Sunday, January 7, 2024
DETROIT — Sam LaPorta had a 2-yard touchdown catch midway through the first quarter but later limped off the field with a knee injury, an ominous development for the NFC North champion Detroit Lions as they closed out the regular season with a 30-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Detroit (12-5) matched a franchise record for wins and will host a playoff game for the first time since the 1993 season when it played at the Pontiac Silverdome.
The Lions will spend the upcoming week hoping LaPorta, who set an NFL record for receptions by a rookie tight end with 86, is healthy enough to help them earn a second playoff victory since winning the 1957 league title.
Detroit coach Dan Campbell opted to play all his starters even though the best the Lions could hope for was to improve their playoff seeding from No. 3 to No. 2 in the NFC. They needed the Cowboys to lose at Washington later Sunday for that to happen.
Minnesota (7-10) was eliminated from playoff contention, losing four straight games and six of seven in a season stunted by Kirk Cousins’ torn Achilles tendon and the team’s inability to replace him.
Nick Mullens, one of three quarterbacks to start for the Vikings’ over their final five games, lofted a 38-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson in the final minute of the third quarter and had a 42-yard pass to Jordan Addison for another score on his next possession to keep Minnesota within a touchdown.
Jared Goff, who completed 23 of 32 passes for 320 yards without a turnover, threw his second TD pass on a 70-yard toss to Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth. He also set the Lions up for Michael Badgley’s 39-yard field goal that gave them a 30-20 lead with 8:14 left.
Mullens threw interceptions to Cam Sutton and C.J. Gardner-Johnson late in the fourth, ending Minnesota’s comeback hopes. He finished 30 of 44 for 396 yards.
As usual, Jefferson did his part for the Vikings.
He had a career-high-matching 12 catches for a season-high 192 yards and a score. Jefferson, who missed seven games with a hamstring injury, joined Wes Chandler (1982) and Jim Benton (1945) as the only players in league history to have 1,000 yards receiving in 10 or fewer games.
Vikings: OG Ed Ingram (shoulder) was not cleared to play after being listed as questionable, joining OT Brian O’Neill (ankle) and with CBs Mekhi Blackmon (shoulder) and Byron Murphy (knee) on the inactive list.
Lions: LaPorta’s injury looms large. Return specialist Kalif Ray was also ruled out during the game with a knee injury.
Vikings: Missed the playoffs for third time in four years, failing to earn consecutive postseason bids for the first time since the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Lions: Host a playoff game at Ford Field for the first time, aiming to win postseason game for the first time since beating Dallas on Jan. 5, 1992.