The Vikings had every reason to get frustrated with their 17-3 deficit against the Lions entering the fourth quarter, but they weren't going to let it affect their effort.
"The big thing is you never give in, never give into the circumstance of what's taking place sometimes. Sometimes it's ugly, and I've played long enough where it's going to be a part of that," said quarterback Brad Johnson. "Sometimes it's like playing quarterback and when you're on the team it's like running through a gauntlet. When things are going good, everyone's patting you on the back. When things aren't going good, everyone's shooting at you."
The Vikings offense had been experiencing success moving the ball before the fourth quarter – witness Chester Taylor's 66 first-half rushing yards – but they had also lost two fumbles and thrown one interception. Yet, head coach Brad Childress said he was proud of their resiliency in the 26-17 win.
"17-3 in the fourth quarter, obviously no one thought it was looking good, but that's the one thing I like about this team – they show great determination – and I don't think you can put a premium on that, so that's what I'm the proudest for," Childress said. "I know when they show up they're going to give you a day's work for a day's pay. They may not be the most talented group, but I'll tell you what, they'll fight you. I'll take them anywhere with me."
In the fourth quarter, the Vikings offense stopped turning the ball over and the defense started taking advantage of turnovers, with a fumble recovery for a touchdown followed by an interception return for a touchdown as part of scoring 23 unanswered points en route to a dramatic and frenzied comeback.
A DIFFERENT TIME
Keeping turnovers to a minimum against the Vikings' and Lions' new Tampa-2 styles of defense takes patience, Johnson says.
"Eventually that defense will break you down over time. I mentioned that sometimes you're not going to get all the deep shots that you want to against the Tampa-2, the Minnesota-2 defense, or whatever you want to call it," he said. "Sometimes it's not always the Cover-2 plays. That's what confuses people at different times, and eventually the turnovers will come and that's what (the Vikings defense) did today. They started creating turnovers, playing with the lead you start getting tipped balls and, when they stop the run like that, it's pretty."
The Vikings defense certainly resembles nothing seen in Minnesota purple in the last decade, as it has held its opponents under 20 points in every game this season. But until the defense scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Vikings hadn't scored more than 20 points, either.
Johnson was asked if people need to get used to the fact this is no longer the offense that sports Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss.
"The past is the past," Johnson said. "Those guys have futures wherever they are. Right now … this is a very good football team. Take it however you want to take it, but we're going to win a lot of ball games. It's going to be exciting and we're going to get better from week to week. For the most part, if we just don't kill ourselves, we're going to be a tough team to beat."
After being among the league lead in penalties through the first four games, the Vikings did significantly better in that category Sunday, garnering only five penalties for 40 yards – and all five of those penalties came in the first half.
Cornerback Ronyell Whitaker was the first defensive back off the bench in the nickel defense at the start of the game and in the second half, but he and rookie Cedric Griffin continued to rotate every other drive playing in the nickel defense.
When Whitaker is in, he is the nickel back on the slot receiver. When it's Griffin, he plays corner with Antoine Winfield sliding into the nickel role.
The Vikings used a similar rotation between Whitaker and Griffin last Sunday against Buffalo.
Winfield, who entered the game as questionable with a quad injury, made the start.
Safety Greg Blue, who would have been the starter if Darren Sharper hadn't been able to bounce back from a quad injury, also played defense in the first quarter. Blue came in when the Lions were looking to convert fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 45-yard line and played up on the line of scrimmage as a third safety. Running back Kevin Jones ran to Blue's side and picked up the first down. It was one of the few times Jones experienced success, as he was held to 8 yards rushing on 10 carries.
BEATING THE DRUMMOND
Detroit wide receiver Eddie Drummond has been one of the top returners in the NFL the last few years, so it was no small accomplishment that the Vikings held him in check.
Drummond entered the game as the league's 10th-rated kickoff return man at 25.4 yards per return and the Vikings held him below that, averaging 20.4 yards on five kickoff returns. Drummond did have a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown called back because of an illegal block above the waist on Donte' Curry, who didn't agree with the call.
"I was pretty shocked at that call," Curry said. "I was real shocked at that call. I felt it was a bad call. Coach felt it was a bad call. I mean, I don't know, I didn't see the replay."
As for punt returns, Drummond improved on his surprisingly low 4.8 yards per return entering the game, but the Vikings allowed him to average 20.5 yards on two returns in that category.
The Lions entered the game with injury problems and it didn't get any better for them.
On their first offensive drive, Detroit sustained injuries to star receiver Roy Williams, who was hit by Darren Sharper after a reception and left the game with a stinger in the back. One play later, guard Damien Woody left the game with a left foot injury that didn't appear to be the result of any contact.
The Lions also lost defensive tackle Shaun Rogers late in the Vikings' first drive of the game. Rogers appeared to have an upper body injury, but he returned to the game.
Good thing he returned, because the injuries to the Lions continued to pile up. Defensive tackle Shaun Cody suffered a "dislocated toe or something like that," according to Lions coach Rod Marinelli. Linebacker Paris Lenon suffered a neck injury and running back Kevin Jones "was just pretty well shaken up at the end," Marinelli said.
Woody's injury may have been the most disruptive since the Lions started the game with three offensive linemen – guards Frank Davis and Ross Verba and tackle Rex Tucker (Verba and Tucker being starters) – deactivated. That forced the Lions to improvise with inexperienced players that Marinelli might not even know by name.
"The one guard has only been here a week," the head coach said. "We just have to get him up to speed fast. No, we've got to go out and do our job. Whoever we put on the field, I expect them to do a great job."
Williams' injury may have been the next toughest to take.
"He is our best player right now. Hopefully he will be able to come back," quarterback Jon Kitna said of Williams. "I do not know the diagnosis or anything like that, but it is unfortunate because he was our best player. He was really playing at the top of this league right now and it is just too bad."
The Vikings deactivated QB Tarvaris Jackson (emergency QB), WR Maurice Mann, S Rashad Baker, RB Ciatrick Fason, LB Marquis Cooper, OL Ryan Cook and Anthony Herrera and TE Jeff Dugan.
The Lions deactivated QB Dan Orlovsky, S Kenoy Kennedy, LB Alex Lewis, OL Fran Davis, Ross Verba and Rex Tucker, TE Casey FitzSimmons and DT Tyoka Jackson.
Marinelli reportedly started working with the Detroit Lions defensive line again this week. He did the same in the first week, when defensive line coach Joe Cullen was suspended after being arrested. The Lions had five sacks in the first week of the season, but they didn't garner one sack against the Vikings.
Linebacker Ben Leber appeared to have a safety on his sack of Kitna early in the second quarter, but the officials ruled that Kitna made it out of the end zone with the ball. It would have been the first safety scored by the Vikings in three years. The last time was when Falcons offensive lineman Bob Whitfield was penalized in the end zone on Oct. 5, 2003.
At one point in the first half, the Lions had two players injured on the same play. Earlier in the half, the cart took two other players to the locker room at the same time.
In the span of one minute and two seconds early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings went from a 17-3 deficit to only a blocked extra point from tying the game.
Notebook: Vikings Avoid Frustrated Feeling
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