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Vikings’ seven-decade series against Lions has produced padded stats, big winning streaks



Vikings’ seven-decade series against Lions has produced padded stats, big winning streaks

When Chuck Foreman came to Minnesota as an NFL rookie in 1973, there was one thing it didn’t take him long to learn: The Vikings were supposed to beat the Lions.

The Vikings were in the midst of a 13-game winning streak over Detroit at the time, one that would end in 1974. The Vikings ended up going 11-3 against the Lions with Foreman playing as a running back for them from 1973-79.

“The Lions were always one of those teams in my time that you just put a check mark up against, a winning check mark,” Foreman said. “I never felt like we couldn’t beat them. We had to beat ourselves to lose to them. … You’d look at the schedule, and that was a team you could chalk up a win against.”

Flash forward five decades and not much has changed. Minnesota (1-3) heads into Sunday’s none game against the Lions (0-4) at U.S. Bank with a seven-game winning streak in a series that began in 1961. A win would give the Vikings their third-longest victory streak against Detroit, following the 13 consecutive victories from 1968-74 and a 10-game run from 2002-06.

Among the 16 teams the Vikings have played 18 or more times in franchise history, they have dominated the Lions like no other. Minnesota holds a 78-39-2 series lead, having doubled them up in wins with a 37-35 win at Detroit in the 2020 season finale.

A look at the record book reveals a multitude of impressive Vikings performances against the Lions, a rival in the West Division from 1961-66, the Central Division from 1967-2001 and in the NFC North since 2002.

In recent years, the Vikings set a team sack record with 10 against the Lions in 2018, and last year Dalvin Cook had a career-high 206 yards rushing against them. Going farther back, Sammy White set the team record with 210 yards receiving against the Lions in 1976, Foreman had the second-best rushing outing in his career with 156 yards against them in 1977, and in a 23-0 win at Detroit in 1988, Minnesota allowed just 60 yards of total offense, which remains tied for a team record.

“After a period of time, it just dawned on the team that it’s just the way life is in this division,” White, who played for the Vikings from 1976-85, said of their domination of the Lions. “Three teams have dominated the division (Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago) and they’re the ones at the bottom of the pole, so automatically I feel like it’s a victory we should count ahead of time.”

With that in mind, White believes this is an ideal time for the Vikings, who are 1-3 and in desperate need of a win, to face the Lions, who are 0-4. Minnesota is a 9½-point favorite.

“It’s a perfect time since we’ve dominated them for so long and we definitely need a victory because we can’t afford to go down any farther, especially in the division,” White said of the Vikings, who trail the Packers (3-1) and Bears (2-2) in the NFC North.

The Vikings aren’t looking at it quite that way. They point to the fact that the Lions have lost several close games this season and easily could have a better record.

“We’re going to be on our Ps and Qs,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

After Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014, the Vikings actually had their worst seven-game stretch against Detroit since the early 1990s. They went 2-5 against the Lions until starting a seven-game winning streak in 2017.

“I’m not sure it’s anything particular,” linebacker Anthony Barr, a rookie in 2014, said about turning things around. “I think we kind of approach it the same type of way in terms of we have to get this win, and for whatever reason we’ve had success (against Detroit), so hopefully that continues.”

There was a time when the Lions actually were the dominant team in the series. When Minnesota entered the NFL as an expansion team in 1961, Detroit won the first five meetings.

The Vikings finally broke through against the Lions on Nov. 24, 1963, a game played in a somber environment at Metropolitan Stadium, two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

For the next several years, the series was mostly even. Then in 1968, behind the Vikings’ the Purple People Eaters defensive line, Minnesota started its 13-game win streak.

“During the 1960s, we had been second behind the Green Bay dynasty and we thought the baton would get passed to us but it was passed to Minnesota,” said Hall of Fame defensive back Dick LeBeau, who played for the Lions from 1969-72. “They built a team up there and had (defensive linemen) Jim Marshall, Alan Page and Carl Eller, and Bud Grant was a great coach.”

Grant, Minnesota’s coach from 1967-83 and in 1985, had an amazing 26-8-1 record against the Lions.

“In those years, we had a great team and Detroit was down,” said Jeff Diamond, who was in Minnesota’s front office from 1976-98, including 1991-98 as general manager. “It turned around a little bit when Barry Sanders arrived.”

When Sanders starred at running back for the Lions from 1989-98, they went 9-11 against the Vikings. That included 1991, the last season the Lions won a playoff game and also a season in which they swept Minnesota.

One of Diamond’s most memorable games against Detroit during his tenure was on Sept. 26, 1976, when the Vikings played at the Pontiac Silverdome, which opened the year before. Grant had a practice of wanting his team to get to a stadium on the road exactly one hour before a game because he believed players would lose energy if they sat around the locker room too long.

But the trip to the game did not go as planned. The team busses, without a police escort in those days, unexpectedly got caught in traffic and the Vikings arrived for their scheduled 1 p.m. game at about 12:45 p.m.

“As we arrived at the stadium, the game officials were waiting for us,” Diamond said. “They said, ‘Coach Grant, you’re going to get penalized 15 yards on the kickoff and get fined $10,000 by the NFL, and the league office wants to talk to you after the game.’ ”

The Vikings were given a short period to warm up and the game started a half hour late. But naturally, the Vikings still won, with a blocked extra point by Nate Allen late in the game securing a 10-9 triumph.

Later that season, there was another memorable game between the teams. The Vikings won Nov. 7 at Metropolitan Stadium when White, then a rookie, caught seven passes for his team-record 210 yards and scored two touchdowns.

“Once you got your confidence of knowing this is a team you’re going to beat, you can put in your head, ‘This is a stat game,’ ” White said. “I’m trying to build up my stats. … They were pretty much blitzing all the time, trying to get the ball out of (quarterback Fran Tarkenton’s) hands as soon as possible, but I could make a little move and be wide open.”

There was one move White wasn’t happy about. He would have had three touchdowns had he not, after hauling in a long pass, held the ball up in celebration five yards shy of the end zone. Lions cornerback Lem Barney dove at his legs from behind, and White lost the ball, which rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

“I had a big boo-boo,” White said. “That was a national TV game, so I was very embarrassed. I got back to the sideline and Bud said in a calm voice, ‘That’s what I mean by no showboating.’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And I never did that again.”

The Vikings still won, 34-21.

The following year, the Vikings concluded the regular season with a nationally televised game against the Lions on a Saturday night. Foreman had the second-best rushing outing of his career, and Minnesota won 30-21 at the Silverdome.

“I always had great games against (the Lions),” Foreman said. “They had some great players come through as individuals. but they never really had any great teams. … They were a tough team, for sure, but they were mistake prone.”

Flash forward a decade, and the Vikings had what Diamond called “one of the greatest defensive performances” he’s ever seen against the Lions, allowing just 60 yards in the shutout on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 at the Silverdome.

“(Defensive linemen) Keith Millard, Chris Doleman and Henry Thomas just dominated the game, and (the Lions) couldn’t do anything,” Diamond said.

Thomas, a defensive tackle who played for the Vikings from 1987-94, was in his second season then. The first six times he faced Detroit, the Vikings won, although the Lions were able to win six of the next 10 thanks to Sanders.

Then Thomas left as a free agent to sign with Detroit, and he found himself mostly on the losing side. The Lions were 1-3 against Minnesota when he was with them from 1995-96.

“Well, the Lions have struggled as an organization, but they’ve managed to put out some great players,” Thomas said.

So why is it that the Lions, who haven’t won a championship since 1957 and have not been to a Super Bowl since that game began in January 1967, have struggled so mightily?

“If I had those answers, I’d be working for that organization, probably in the front office,” Thomas said.

In a loss to the Vikings in 1995, Thomas watched as Warren Moon uncorked an 85-yard touchdown pass to Quadry Ismail. In 2008, Gus Frerotte threw an 86-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian, meaning two of the six longest pass plays in Minnesota history have come against the Lions.

Speaking of long plays, when Adrian Peterson played for the Vikings from 2007-16, he had two of his five longest runs against Detroit, one for 80 yards and one for 78.

Peterson looked on from the bench in a Sept. 30, 2012 game at Detroit’s Ford Field when, for one of just two times in team history, the Vikings had both a kickoff and punt returned for a touchdown in the same game. Percy Harvin opened the game with a 105-yard kickoff return. Then in the third quarter, Marcus Sherels, on his 25th birthday, had a 77-yard punt return in Minnesota’s 20-13 win.

“To get my first NFL touchdown on my birthday, that was pretty cool,” Sherels said. ‘I remember Percy getting the kickoff return before that and he said, ‘Now, it’s your turn.’ ”

Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter knows all about big moments against the Lions. He had a career-high 3½ sacks against them in 2018 and a three-sack game against them in 2019. The former was the game at U.S. Bank Stadium in which Minnesota set a team record with 10 sacks.

“It was a big day,” co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said of the Vikings overwhelming then-Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Cook had a big day last year against Detroit, running for his career-high 206 yards at U.S. Bank Stadium. He wouldn’t mind a repeat performance Sunday.

“If you get 200 yards on a defense in the NFL, it’s a good game,” Cook said “I had a good game, but it’s a whole different group, different coaching staff (under Dan Campbell), everything is different (this year)… I’m putting that behind me and I’m trying to get more yards, whatever it is, 200, I’m trying to go get it.”

White hopes Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson will have another big game against Detroit. He has become friendly with Jefferson, a fellow Louisiana native.

The last time Jefferson faced the Lions, in last year’s season finale, he tied a team record for a rookie with nine catches and had 133 yards. Jefferson actually had nine catches three times last season, while White did it twice in 1976.

“I hope it’s another stat game Sunday for my home guy Justin,” White said.

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Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage



Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage

A trip to Encore Casino in Everett ended unluckily for Steven Gonzalez, 33, who was arrested after allegedly firing shots at a group of men after a fight.

A State Police spokesperson said that, on Dec. 1, the State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit and Everett Police officers responded to a report of shots fired in Encore’s garage. When they arrived, the group found ballistic evidence, but no victims, leading them to believe that no one was struck by gunfire.

A later investigation revealed the alleged shooter to be Gonzalez, who police say fired multiple rounds at a group of men following an altercation. After he shot at them, Gonzalez fled on foot and was later picked up by someone in a motor vehicle.

The Malden District Court granted a warrant charging Gonzalez with armed assault with intent to murder, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, carrying a firearm without a license and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Although Gonzalez’s last known address was in Peabody, he was not immediately found in the aftermath of the shooting. A team comprising the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section Troopers, Gaming Enforcement Unit Troopers, members of a U.S. Marshals Task Force and Everett and Salem Officers used intelligence to locate Gonzalez at a Salem apartment. He was arrested there without incident, and transported to the Salem Police Department for booking.

An Encore spokesperson confirmed the incident but declined to comment further pending the ongoing investigation.

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Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP



Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP

The MLS electorate is diverse by design but it spoke with one voice in favor of New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil.

The Revs’ star was presented with the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday afternoon during a ceremony inside the Optum Field Lounge at Gillette Stadium.

The event was hosted by former Revolution striker Taylor Twellman, an ESPN soccer analyst who won the award with New England in 2005, and Revolution owner Robert Kraft, team president Brian Bilello and sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena participated in the presentation.

Gil was accompanied by his wife Maria and the proceedings included video highlights of his big plays from the Revolution’s historic 2021 regular season, which saw the team win its first Supporters Shield with an MLS record 73 points.

The Landon Donovan recipient is selected by an electorate of current MLS players, club technical staff members and the media, and Gil won each faction in a landslide. With 37% of the players’ vote, he was the only one to reach double digits. Gil also got 57.6% of the vote from club officials and 61.6% from the media. Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar, Seattle’s Joao Paulo, Sporting Kansas City’s Daniel Salloi and Valentin Castellanos of New York City FC rounded out the top five.

“The award is voted on by really three groups,” said Bilello. “It is the players, sporting staffs from the different clubs and the media that covers soccer in our country and Carles won all three of those votes running away.

“Whether it is Carles’ peers, whether it is his foes or the media which covers the teams, all of them unanimously chose Carles as their MVP for the season.”

Gil had the numbers to win over the undecideds. The 29-year-old Spaniard led MLS in several significant offensive categories including 18 assists, an MLS record 130 chances created, 25 big chances created, 81 chances created in open play and 49 chances created from set pieces.

The Revolution were 10-2-4 when Gil scored a goal, 22-0-7 when he recorded an assist and 5-0-1 when he had a goal and an assist. Great playmakers need finishers and Gil had his choice of three phenomenal international goal scorers in Adam Buksa (Poland), Gustavo Bou (Argentina) and Tajon Buchanan (Canada).

Buksa led the team with 16 goals in the regular season while Bou was tied for fourth in MLS with 24 combined goals and assists. Buchanan had eight goals and five assists in 27 games. Bou and Buchanan were Gil’s targets in open play while Buksa was his header of choice on set pieces.

Buksa and Bou were the goal scorers in the Revs’ 2-2 shootout loss (5-3) to NYCFC in the MLS Cup Eastern Conference semifinal on Nov. 30 at Gillette Stadium.

“It is a pleasure to play with those types of players and all of them really are incredible to me,” said Gil, who showed emotion during his acceptance speech.

“They make my role easier with the guys we have up top. Adam has a great game in the air and can capitalize on those passes and Gustavo and Tajon are incredible players.”

Arena, who was named MLS Coach of the Year, has a unique perspective on the award as he has coached Gil for parts of three seasons and Donovan over seven campaigns (2008-2014) with the LA Galaxy. While Donovan was a finishing forward and Gil creates scoring chances in the midfield and on set pieces, they were both impact players in their own right according to Arena.

“Landon was goal scorer and Carles is a supplier of goals,” said Arena. “They are both outstanding players and obviously their value to their teams were great and are great. They are different players for sure. But they are two outstanding players for sure.”

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Report: Amid COVID, demand for lab space surges, leading to higher rents



Report: Amid COVID, demand for lab space surges, leading to higher rents

Demand for Boston-area lab space is surging, but the supply is scant, leading to soaring rents, according to a new report.

Demand is far outpacing available space in the Boston area, with a record number of large biotech and drug companies seeking 100,000 square feet amid a global race for new drug development, according to the report from CBRE, a Dallas-based commercial real estate services and investment firm.

“The Boston lab market is expanding at an unprecedented pace,” said Jonathan Varholak, the firm’s vice chairman. “With over $9.3 billion of venture capital funding having flowed into Boston area life science firms in the first three quarters of this year, demand from startups is at an all-time high. We’re seeing record-setting rents and historically low vacancies as a result.”

The vacancy rate for existing lab and research and development space is just 1.1% in the Boston-Cambridge market, as average asking rents soar, jumping 7.5% to $94.62 per square foot in September compared to March 2021.

In Boston and Cambridge, where vacancy is 0.1% and 0.3% respectively, the average asking rents are now $100.00 per square foot in Boston and $112.79 in Cambridge, according to CBRE. The leasing of lab space has been pushed into the suburbs, including Watertown and Route 128 West.

“As we see in housing, space is scarce,” said Joe Boncore, CEO of the industry group MassBio. “But as we add more space to the economy, we expect the price of lab space to level off.”

Ten million square feet of lab space is under construction in the Boston area, which includes 9.3 million square feet of “spec” construction, where developers broke ground with no tenants signed at the time, the report said. Six million square feet is expected to deliver by the end of next year, and 3.2 million square feet is being converted from other uses such as office or warehouse space.

In Boston, life sciences employment has grown faster than the U.S average over the past 15 years, although Boston has only about a sixth of the life sciences employment as Middlesex County, including Cambridge, Waltham, Lexington, among others. Yet Boston has grown more rapidly over the past year: 7.5% vs. 5.2%, according to CBRE.

“Life sciences labs quickly have become a highly sought-after property type for both tenants and investors,” said Ian Anderson, CBRE’s Americas Head of Office Research. “This intense demand for lab space is the natural result of a global push for new medicines begetting strong funding and hiring in the life sciences sector.”

Global demand for vaccines for COVID-19 and viruses like it has led to initial public offerings for life sciences companies in the on pace for a record year, raising roughly $13 billion, according to CBRE.

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