Who's Hot, Who's Not, Who's Hurt

The Vikings coaches are left trying to explain away their decision for a reverse option in the fourth quarter that was intercepted. Meanwhile, they could be getting some key players back from injury this week and next. In Detroit, a quarterback controversy renews while other playmakers are stepping up.


Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan took full responsibility for the interception that WR Randy Moss threw off of a reverse option with 2:16 left in the game and the Vikings trailing by four points on first down at the Seattle 20-yard line.

"You wish you could have it back to call something else, but you don't," Linehan said. "That's life."

Moss, who wouldn't speak to reporters after the game, was a step from the sideline when he whipped the ball into double coverage. Safety Michael Boulware intercepted the ball in the end zone.

"I have just as much confidence in Randy's instinct on that or any other play than I would have in any player I've coached," Linehan said. "You spread the field, you get the ball in the hands of one of the greatest receivers ever to play the game. I have no question that he has the instincts to handle that situation."

Coach Mike Tice regretted the reverse option pass, but he said he wasn't going to second-guess Linehan's decision.

"An interception there never entered my mind," Tice said. "I thought Randy either would run out of bounds, throw the touchdown or throw the ball out of the back of the end zone."

Tice said he understood that Linehan was grasping for a way to score some points. After the Vikings scored 20 in the first half, they were held to a field goal in the second. And the field goal came after an interception set up the offense at the Seattle 14.

  • The Vikings have allowed just 18 points in the second half of the last four games. But they've also allowed 68 in the first half of those games. Once again, defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell was left trying to explain why his defense looked lost in the first half as it gave up three touchdown passes.

    "It's very discouraging that it's the 13th game of the season and we keep having this problem," Cottrell said. "It's not only discouraging for me, it's discouraging for the players. They're trying so hard."

  • CB Antoine Winfield, who missed the Seahawks game because of a high left ankle sprain, has a good chance of playing against Detroit this week, coach Mike Tice said. Winfield, the team's second-best defensive player behind tackle Kevin Williams, was sorely missed in the 27-23 loss to the Seahawks. It's doubtful Winfield will be able to start against the Lions.

  • DT Kevin Williams leads all NFL tackles with 10 sacks. He sacked Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on a key third-down play in the fourth quarter on Sunday.

  • C Matt Birk, who has missed the last three games because of surgery to repair a hernia, is on schedule to return for the Dec. 24 game against Green Bay. C Cory Withrow will start again this week at Detroit.

  • LB Mike Nattiel suffered a shoulder injury against Seattle. He should be healthy enough to play at Detroit. Nattiel has two special-teams tackles in each of the last two games.

  • LB Raonall Smith, who has missed the last six games because of two concussions, has a good chance of playing at Detroit.


    QB Mike McMahon, a four-year NFL veteran, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, isn't holding his breath to see if he gets a chance to start against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

    "When there's been opportunities to make a change, he hasn't," McMahon said, "so I'd be a little bit surprised."

    But if he gets the chance? "It would be a great opportunity," McMahon said.

    If coach Steve Mariucci decided to start McMahon, it would be presumably to take some of the building pressure off Joey Harrington. But the experience McMahon would get would probably not benefit the Lions, who are not likely to keep him in free agency.

    McMahon has said on more than one occasion in recent weeks that he wants to compete for a starting job on an equal financial basis wherever he lands as a free agent.

    "The NFL is a business," he said. "Everyone knows the guys who get paid a little more are going to get more opportunity to succeed in this league and the guys who don't get paid as much have very slim and few opportunities. They have to make the most of it when they come."

    Mariucci probably won't make a decision on whether to start McMahon or Harrington until at least Wednesday.

    Harrington's struggles through the second half of the season might cost him the starting job — probably not on a permanent basis but possibly for a game or two as the Lions finish another disappointing season. After throwing 12 TD passes in the first seven games, Harrington has produced only three in the last six and hit a career low when he went 5-for-22 for 47 yards at Green Bay.

    In his one appearance this season, McMahon completed 11 of 15 passes for 77 yards.

  • RB Kevin Jones needs less than 50 yards in each of the Lions' remaining three games to make it past 1,000 yards in his first NFL season. After back-to-back games of 196 and 156 yards in games against Arizona and Green Bay, Jones has pushed his season totals to 859 yards on 178 attempts and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

  • CB Dre' Bly seems to be close to his 2003 form since making two interceptions in the Lions' Dec. 5 game against Arizona. Bly nearly intercepted a Brett Favre pass Sunday at Green Bay, and opposing quarterbacks now seem to be throwing away from him. Bly has four interceptions for the season.

  • C Dominic Raiola, who has taken widespread public criticism for the shortcomings of the Lions' offensive line during the Lions' current struggles, seems to have played relatively well in recent weeks. He had a key block that helped spring RB Kevin Jones on a 24-yard touchdown run Sunday at Green Bay.

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