The matchup between the Vikings and Lions was supposed to be a battle of the backup quarterbacks, Brad Johnson vs. Joey Harrington. As it turned out, the Vikings took more advantage of two defensive turnovers for excellent field position in a second-quarter scoring spree on their way to a 27-14 win over an NFC North opponent.
Brad Johnson turned in a 15-for-22 performance for two touchdowns and a 115.0 passer rating, while Detroit's Joey Harrington went 28-for-48 for one touchdown and a 63.1 rating.
Johnson not only had the advantage of two Lions turnovers that set up the Minnesota offense inside the red zone, but he also got a 106-yard rushing day from Michael Bennett, who was in injury substitution early in the game for Mewelde Moore.
While the two teams were within four yards of each other in total net yards, the Vikings won the battle of the turnovers (3 to 1) and penalties (3 to 6).
The Lions opened the game by getting past midfield with two intermediate passes to rookie receiver Mike Williams, but Jason Hanson ruined that game-opening momentum when his 51-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
The Vikings responded with their own field goal drive, but they relied on their ground attack. Moore started the Minnesota offense with a 13-yard run, but Michael Bennett did much of the rest, gaining a combined 27 yards on three consecutive carries. Three plays later, Paul Edinger converted a 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 Vikings lead.
The teams exchanged possessions as the game moved to the second quarter, but the Vikings were clearly winning the battle of field position. When Detroit's Nick Harris hit his second punt of the game and Moore had a career-long 30-yard punt return, the Minnesota offense was in business on the Detroit 44-yard line.
Johnson and the running game took advantage of the position. Just as he did in the team's opening drive, Moore started with a 13-yard run. Johnson kept the drive going with 12-, 8- and 6-yard passes to Troy Williamson to get the ball to the 3-yard line. After a 2-yard loss, Bennett took a shovel pass from Johnson and scooted into the end zone for a 10-0 Vikings lead midway through the second quarter.
But the momentum was just beginning to tilt in Minnesota's favor. Cornerback Brian Williams ended Detroit's ensuing drive with a 6-yard sack while stripping Harrington of the ball. When Kevin Williams finished trying to advance it, the Vikings offense was given the ball on Detroit's 14-yard line.
After a 4-yard run by Moore and a 7-yard pass to Travis Taylor, Ciatrick Fason finished the drive with his first touchdown run of his short NFL career to give Minnesota a 17-0 lead with 5:45 to play in the first half.
Once again, the Purple Haze struck when Antoine Winfield plucked a deflected screen pass out of the air and returned it 4 yards to the Detroit 11-yard line. Moore went backwards 4 yards, but on third down Johnson found Nate Burleson in the end zone. Burleson adjusted to the ball in the air deflected it and hauled the ball into his grasp before it hit the carpet for a 15-yard touchdown and a 24-0 Vikings lead with 4:02 to play in the half.
The Lions saved some dignity in the first half with a late scoring drive. They drove to midfield with a short passing attack before Harrington threw a perfect pass to wide receiver Scottie Vines for a 40-yard reception down the left sideline to the 1-yard line. Artose Pinner capped the drive with a 1-yard dive for a touchdown to close the Detroit deficit to 24-7 with 48 seconds left in the half.
The Vikings drove across midfield, but Edinger's 52-yard attempt to end the half was woefully short and low.
While the second quarter featured 28 points of scoring, the third quarter went scoreless as the opening drive for each team ended with a sack, followed by punts on the next drive for each team.
On their third drive of the half, however, the Lions made something work with decent position on the 33-yard line. Vines converted the initial third down into a first down with a 15-yard reception, and Pinner got the explosive play of the drive with a screen that he turned into a 24-yard pass play to end the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Harrington found tight end Marcus Pollard in single coverage with a linebacker and hit him in stride for a 23-yard touchdown to draw within 10 points, 24-14.
The teams traded possessions before the Vikings got on the board with another field goal, thanks to taking possession at their own 45-yard line. After a 19-yard pass to Taylor to open the drive, Bennett gained 14 and 7 yards on consecutive rushes. The drive went backwards from there with three straight losses before Edinger made good on a 40-yard field goal to extend the Vikings lead to 27-14 with 7:30 left to play.
The Lions turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, but the Vikings were only able to milk more time off the clock before giving the Lions one more shot at hope. Harrington led his offense across midfield before throwing a desperation interception to Darren Sharper at the goal line to essentially end the game.
The Vikings needed the win against an NFC North opponent, but coming against Detroit at home it proved only that they could take advantage of turnovers and momentum at home. Garnering that momentum at Giants Stadium next Sunday will be a much more dicey proposition.
Vikings Seize Momentum in 27-14 Win
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