Turning Point: Kitna Restores Offense

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz has been called the mad scientist on offense, but Sunday proved that Martz needs an experienced assistant in the lab to carry out his offensive concoctions. When Jon Kitna returned to the game, his Lions offense returned to scoring.

When Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna left Sunday's 23-20 overtime win against the Vikings with 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Vikings fans had to breathe a sigh of relief. He had just given the Lions a 7-0 lead and it could have been much worse. He had completed 13 of 21 passes in just a little over one quarter and had 151 yards passing and a touchdown. It was thought that the Lions would pin their hopes on Vikings QB reject J.T. O'Sullivan, but Kitna's late-game heroics proved to be the Turning Point of the Game.

While Kitna was in the game, the Lions went with a lot of no-huddle offense and four receivers, and it often looked as though the Vikes were at his mercy. With O'Sullivan, the game plan got much more simplified and the Vikings found a way to erase a 17-7 deficit and tie the game at 17-17. But after three series in which O'Sullivan had one three-and-out, one interception and a fumble that resulted in a Vikings defensive touchdown, the coaches and Kitna had seen enough. His return brought back the excitement he had going early on and, almost from the time he returned to the game, it seemed as though he was destined to make the plays that would win the game for Detroit.

On his first drive back, he marched the Lions into scoring position with a 20-yard pass to Calvin Johnson and, on the next play, hit Roy Williams on a slant that appeared to be destined for a first down on or about the Vikings 16-yard line. But Darren Sharper knocked the ball loose and Antoine Winfield recovered to kill the drive and give the Vikings a reprieve.

With three minutes left to play, Kitna was back at it, completing passes of 20 yards to Johnson and 11 yards to Williams before avoiding a sack and diving ahead for 9 yards to put the Lions in position to win the game with one minute to play. Although Jason Hanson would miss the 48-yard attempt, Kitna again had done his job with a possible concussion to give Detroit a win that would end the Vikings' 10-game winning streak over the Lions.

After a fumbled snap by Brooks Bollinger gave Kitna the ball in overtime, it seemed almost inevitable that the third time would be the charm. On a critical third-down scramble, Kitna picked up the first down with a 6-yard run and, one play later, Hanson hit a 37-yard field goal to give the Lions a 20-17 overtime win.

In a game marred by 10 turnovers and both starting quarterbacks getting knocked out of the game with injuries, it was Kitna's poise upon his return that gave the Lions the confidence and boost they needed to snap their five-year-long losing streak to the Vikings.


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