NEXT OP­PO­NENT: LIONS

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Cover: Pack­ers QB Aaron Rodgers sig­nals touch­down after reach­ing across the goal line for a score against the Jets. Photo: Mike De Sisti / Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sentinel

Detroit — Looks like the Min­nesota Vik­ings have a feel for des­per­a­tion. And des­per­a­tion pass plays. Kirk Cousins took a shot­gun snap, rolled slightly to his right, stepped up and heaved a pass from near mid­field into the end zone.

Kyle Ru­dolph leaped to make a goa­head touch­down catch.

Cousins’ 44-yard Hail Mary to Ru­dolph as time ex­pired in the first half put the Min­nesota Vik­ings ahead and they beat the Detroit Lions, 27-9, Sun­day, mov­ing a step closer to play­ing in the post­sea­son.

“It was a big way to gain some mo­men­tum go­ing into the half after a slow start,” Cousins said. “They were call­ing it a Hail Rudy after it hap­pened.”

Min­nesota fa­mously beat New Or­leans in the play­offs last Jan­uary on Diggs’ game-end­ing, 61-yard touch­down re­cep­tion to ad­vance to the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

The Vik­ings could have clinched a spot in the play­offs with a win and losses by Wash­ing­ton and Philadel­phia this week­end. The Red­skins lost to Ten­nessee on Satur­day, and shortly after Min­nesota walked into its locker room at Ford Field, the Ea­gles beat Hous­ton on a game-end­ing field goal.

Min­nesota (8-6-1) can still earn a spot in the post­sea­son by clos­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son with a win against NFC North cham­pion Chicago at home, or by hav­ing wild-card hope­fuls lose in Week 17.

“We don’t want to leave it up to any­one else,” Ru­dolph said.

The Vik­ings over­came an aw­ful start of­fen­sively, scor­ing two touch­downs on Cousins’ passes over the last 1:32 of the se­cond quar­ter, and re­lied on their de­fense all af­ter­noon against Detroit.

Min­nesota had al­most as many punts (4) as yards (5) be­fore Cousins led an eight-play, 69-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touch­down pass to Ste­fon Diggs late in the first half.

On the Vik­ings’ next pos­ses­sion after call­ing time­out with 2 sec­onds left in the se­cond quar­ter against a three-man rush, Cousins capped a 70-yard drive with his Hail Mary to Ru­dolph, who didn’t have much traf­fic in front of him.

“I didn’t have to move one step off of my spot. I was able to jump,” said the 6foot-6 Ru­dolph, who was a highly touted high school bas­ket­ball player in Cincin­nati. “I joked ear­lier I had a lot of re­bounds in high school bas­ket­ball and at that point, it turns into an­other re­bound, so maybe see if I can get that added to my ca­reer to­tal.”

In the same end zone three years ago, Aaron Rodgers con­nected with Richard Rodgers on a win­ning des­per­a­tion pass to lift the Pack­ers to a win over Detroit to help them make a push to get into the post­sea­son.

Cousins fin­ished 21 of 28 for 253 yards with three touch­downs, match­ing his ca­reer high with 29 set in 2015 with the Red­skins. Ru­dolph had a ca­reer-high 122 yards re­ceiv­ing, matched a ca­reer high with two touch­down re­cep­tions, and had a sea­son-high nine re­cep­tions.

The Lions (5-10) wasted op­por­tu­ni­ties to have a com­fort­able cush­ion in the first half be­cause their of­fense stalled re­peat­edly. They had to set­tle for three field goals and a 9-0 lead, and then they had to deal with a 14-9 deficit after the Hail Mary.

“When those things hap­pen, cer­tainly they have a lit­tle bit of a toll on you,” coach Matt Pa­tri­cia ac­knowl­edged.

Detroit has dropped four of five and seven of nine since reach­ing .500 in late Oc­to­ber, fall­ing apart in Pa­tri­cia’s first sea­son as a head coach after the fran­chise fired coach Jim Cald­well with a 3628 record over four sea­sons.

The play­ing-for-pride Lions got off to a strong start de­fen­sively against the play­off-hope­ful Vik­ings, hold­ing them with­out a first down un­til there were three-plus min­utes left in the first half.

Stafford sits: Matthew Stafford was 18 of 32 for 116 yards and was re­placed with 4:10 left by Matt Cas­sel, who was wel­comed by cheers be­fore the Lions were called for a false start prior to his first snap.

“It’s frus­trat­ing that that’s the way the game went,” said Stafford, who is play­ing through a back in­jury. “Coach makes those de­ci­sions. Al­ways want to be out there, un­der­stand where he’s com­ing from with it. He knows what I’m deal­ing with and go­ing through. As far as fans’ re­ac­tion, it doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence.”

In­jury re­port: Lions: TE Luke Will­son (con­cus­sion), DT A’Shawn Robin­son (knee), De­Shawn Shead (knee) were hurt dur­ing the game. Vik­ings: CB Mar­cus Sherels left with a foot in­jury in the first quar­ter and didn’t re­turn. CB Xavier Rhodes (groin) limped off the field in the fourth quar­ter. FB C.J. Ham (el­bow) had an el­bow in­jury.

GETTY IM­AGES

Vik­ings tight end Kyle Ru­dolph rises to catch a Hail Mary touch­down pass to end the first half Sun­day in a vic­tory over Detroit.

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