Did the Vikings Make the Playoffs after All?

Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown walks off the field after the Lions' 34-31 loss in the NFC championship game in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

When the Minnesota Vikings fell short against the Detroit Lions in Week 18, they watched as their playoff hopes were put to rest. Although they didn’t end up making the tournament, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the team playing against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game didn’t look eerily similar.

Did the Vikings Make the Playoffs after All?

A first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Rams highlighted the Detroit Lions playoff experience. With Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford having swapped spots, there was no shortage of storylines for the two teams. Hanging in against a few haymakers from the Stafford-led Rams, Detroit emerged victorious and then handled the Baker Mayfield-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

make the playoffs
A fan reacts to a missed play leading to a punt during the Detroit Lions NFC Championship watch party at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. © Kimberly P. Mitchell / USA TODAY NETWORK.

What the Lions then did against the 49ers was a collapse that has grown all too familiar for Minnesota fans. Up 24-7 at halftime, what ensued was nothing short of a slow train wreck.

Detroit immediately gave up points on an opening drive field goal for San Francisco, and then the shooting of themselves in the foot began. Dan Campbell had his team on the 49ers 28-yard line, and instead of answering with a Michael Badgley field goal of their own to keep the score status quo, Detroit went for it with Josh Reynolds failing to haul in a Goff pass. San Francisco took over, and just five plays and less than two minutes later, they were in the end zone to make it a 24-17 game.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

On the first play of the next possession, Jahmyr Gibbs coughed up the football on Detroit’s 24-yard line. Four plays later, San Francisco tied the contest and the Lions’ momentum was all but gone. After a three-and-out was followed by a field goal, giving San Francisco their first lead of the game, Campbell decided to double down on the stupidity. Detroit sustained a six-play drive that brought them down to the 30-yard line, and rather than even the score with a field goal, another incomplete fourth down pass opted against points.

A 49ers touchdown was answered with a Lions touchdown, but getting down by 10 before finding paydirt again, Detroit saw just 56 seconds left on the clock and had only two timeouts left. The onside kick didn’t go ten yards, and the 49ers took over with the ability to run the clock out. Detroit losing by three while leaving at least six points worth of field goals on the board is quite a gut punch to the stomach.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings fans have seen this plenty in the form of missed kicks and failed opportunities, but without ever actually playing in the game, they got to experience the absurdity from the viewpoint of another fanbase. Minnesota didn’t need a Minneapolis Miracle to face a drubbing by their next opponent or a cold chip shot missed hilariously to see the parallels here. Campbell and the Lions’ talent on the field failed themselves miserably. Despite being seven-point underdogs, this was Detroit’s game to win, and they played attempting to lose for 30 straight minutes.

Sunday night was a sad reality for the Lions and an awful way for the season to end. If the fanbase is looking for sympathy from an NFC North rival, though, they won’t find any in Minnesota.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.