Bennett Gets Back To Action

Michael Bennett produced only the second 100-yard rushing performance for the Vikings this season as he became the feature back after an injury to Mewelde Moore limited the starter.

After spending most of the season on the sideline, Michael Bennett has re-established himself as a central part of the Vikings' running game Sunday.

Bennett, shopped to Arizona before the trade deadline and set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the Vikings' 27-14 victory over Detroit.

It was only the second 100-yard rushing performance by a Vikings back this season — Mewelde Moore went for 101 yards in a Week 3 victory over New Orleans — and it gave Bennett more yards in one game than he had in the first seven games combined (71).

While Bennett attempted to deflect the praise to his offensive line, it's clear that if he can continue to be productive, it would be a big boost to an offense that has lost quarterback Daunte Culpepper to a season-ending knee injury.

Veteran Brad Johnson has taken over at quarterback, and he threw for 136 yards in the victory over the Lions. It's clear that unlike Culpepper, who is expected to make things happen, Johnson will be more of a game manager, meaning success from the running game is crucial.

Bennett's performance is what coach Mike Tice expected in training camp when he declared him the starting running back. Bennett lost that job two games into the season after fumbling twice in a loss at Cincinnati. After that, Bennett became a near non-factor, and his season-high for carries had been six.

"I talked to Mike during the bye when Mike was struggling with the fact he wasn't starting," Tice said. "I indicated to him that in training camp I anointed him as the starter. I felt he was practicing well in training camp. I felt that he was going to run the ball hard, and then he hurt his neck, and it took him awhile to get back and get that confidence. But the main thing is he's kept a good attitude and he's hung in there."

Said Bennett: "It has been up and down, but the thing that I get from my running back coach Dean Dalton, and something that I grew up with my mom telling me, is just to stay humble, remain poised and everything will work out. I'm not a selfish guy. I love this organization, I've been here five years, and now I'm having fun. Again, we have some young up-and-coming guys, so if I'm not in there, I have to support them."

The Vikings now must go on the road to face the Giants on Sunday. The team has been awful away from the Metrodome, going 0-4 and giving up fewer than 30 points only once.

REPLAY

The Vikings remained perfect against the Lions with Mike Tice as their head coach, rolling to a 27-14 victory at the Metrodome and bringing their record to 3-5.

Tice improved to 7-0 against Detroit, thanks in part to his defense. The Vikings coach spent much of last week working with the unit in practice after a dreadful showing in Carolina, and the effort appeared to pay off.

Switching back to a 4-3 defense after three games in a 3-4 look, the Vikings forced two second-quarter turnovers that led to touchdowns and a 24-7 halftime lead. Minnesota had failed to get a sack or force a turnover in its previous two games, but the Vikings had four sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery on Sunday.

Brad Johnson, taking over at quarterback for the injured Daunte Culpepper, completed 15 of 22 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He did not have an interception and finished with a 115.0 quarterback rating.

NOTES

  • DL Spencer Johnson returned after missing three games because of a sprained right knee and was used at both end and on the inside against Detroit.

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas returned from a bruised right shoulder and saw extensive action in passing situations against Detroit, especially when the Vikings went to a cover-two scheme in the second half.

  • DE Erasmus James, the 18th overall selection in the April draft, got his first career start and saw a great deal of playing time in the first half against Detroit. A right hamstring strain forced him to miss much of the second half, but James said he will be fine.

  • RB Mewelde Moore suffered a right wrist strain in the third quarter Sunday after being hit by Lions SS Kenoy Kennedy. Moore stayed in the game for a time but missed the entire fourth quarter. He was unhappy afterward because he felt the hit was out of bounds, even though no penalty was called.

  • RB Ciatrick Fason, a fourth-round pick in the April draft, was used in place of the injured Moe Williams (knee/back) on Sunday in short-yardage situations. Fason had only five carries but did score on a 3-yard run.

  • WR Nate Burleson was used on a fourth-quarter punt return after Mewelde Moore (wrist) left the game.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper was not at Sunday's game, and no date has been set for when he will undergo surgery to repair the three torn ligaments in his right knee. Doctors are waiting for the swelling to go down, and the training staff already is working with him on keeping the leg strong.


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