It was destiny that in a game marred with 19 penalties, six fumbles and seven interceptions, a final gaffe would set up an overtime win for the Detroit Lions.
The Vikings endured four interceptions by Tarvaris Jackson and 12 penalties as a team, yet at the end of regulation, kickers for both teams let their teammates down – Jason Hanson missing a 48-yard field goal attempt with 45 seconds remaining and Ryan Longwell hitting the left upright on a 52-yard attempt with two second remaining.
When the Lions knocked Tarvaris Jackson out of the game with a groin injury on the first play in overtime, backup Brooks Bollinger drove the Vikings to midfield before he muffed a snap that Detroit defensive tackle Shaun Rogers recovered. Five plays later, Hanson connected on a 37-yard field goal to give the Lions their first win over the Vikings in the last 11 games, a 20-17 overtime effort.
Jackson's four inceptions plunged him into a 26.4 passer rating while completing 17 of 33 for 166 yards. Adrian Peterson was Jackson's most productive target with 52 yards receiving and 66 yards rushing. But Mike Martz's passing attack was too much for the Vikings, as two Lions quarterbacks combined for 393 yards in the air, led by Roy Williams' 111 yards on seven receptions. Detroit's top four receivers combined for 23 catches for 303 yards, despite two interceptions by Minnesota safety Darren Sharper and another by Dwight Smith. All calculated, the Vikings allowed 415 yards of offense.
The Vikings opened the game with an impressive drive that was built on the running game and short passing attack. Peterson started with an 8-yard run that Troy Williamson converted into a first down with an 11-yard reception. Two more touches for Peterson put the Vikings quickly across midfield, and Mewelde Moore added another first down with a reception and two rushes for a combined 12 yards. But, facing third-and-1 at the 25-yard line, Jackson rifled a ball in traffic intended for Jim Kleinsasser. Instead, safety Gerald Alexander batted the ball into the air and the defensive lineman Shaun Cody intercepted it.
Detroit was far more aggressive in its passing game, throwing the first nine times they snapped the ball and completing five of them, each completion going for a first down, with Shaun McDonald picking up three receptions for 39 yards. But, like the Vikings, when the Lions got into scoring position and were facing third down, Jon Kitna threw an interception. On third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Kitna went for Roy Williams in the end zone and Sharper undercut the route, made the catch and got his feet down in bounds.
After picking up one first down on a Lions penalty, the Vikings returned the favor with a false start from Peterson and couldn't recover.
Once again, the Lions employed a passing attack and moved the ball across midfield on a pass interference call on Cedric Griffin while covering Roy Williams, his fellow University of Texas alum. That gave the Lions 16 yards, and a completion to Mike Furrey netted another 15 yards. But, once again, facing third down, Kitna made a critical mistake. When he was tripped while rolling out, he lost control of the ball and lost 16 yards before Kenechi Udeze dragged him down.
That forced a Lions punt, but Detroit was winning the battle of field position, and when Jackson underthrew Robert Ferguson, cornerback Keith Smith came down with the third interception of the game at the 49-yard line. The Lions' potent passing attack continued to lead the way, as Kitna started with passes of 14 yards to Calvin Johnson and 8 yards to Brian Calhoun. Williams then took and end-around to the 20-yard line. Three plays later, when Kitna threaded a pass into tight coverage in the end zone, Williams had a 9-yard touchdown and the Lions had a 7-0 lead with 11:09 to play in the second quarter.
After bobbling his first kickoff return, Williamson showed his potential in that role with a 56-yard return to the Lions 43-yard line. On third-and-8, the Vikings caught a break and made a heady play to take advantage of it. Jackson was under heavy pressure and fired a low pass to Robert Ferguson, who caught the 10-yard pass on a short hop that was ruled a catch. Jackson got the offense to the line of scrimmage before Detroit could challenge the ruling. After a 6-yard scramble on second down, Jackson unloaded a checkdown pass to Peterson, who broke a tackle and began his race for the end zone. He was stopped one yard short for a 24-yard gain, but Jackson capped the drive with a rollout run for the touchdown to tie the game, 7-7, with 8:25 to play in the half.
Although the Lions had been moving the ball well in the passing game, that looked to change with J.T. O'Sullivan in the game after Kitna took a shot from Ray Edwards on the previous series. O'Sullivan picked up two first downs on passes, advancing to midfield, but the Lions were eventually forced to punt.
The Vikings followed suit on their ensuring possession and the Lions had their last scoring opportunity of the half. They started it big with a 42-yard completion to Williams and got the ball all the way down to the 16-yard line. Facing fourth-and-1, it became obvious they were just trying to draw the Vikings offside with just under two minutes to play, but Kevin Williams fell for the hard count with one second left on the play clock and gave the Lions another set of downs to try to get a touchdown. Instead, the red zone defense stiffened and Hanson came on for a 30-yard field goal to give the Lions a 10-7 lead with 1:06 to play.
With little time and 83 yard to go, the Vikings got a big play to start their drive when Mewelde Moore took a short pass 40 yards to the Detroit 43-yard line, but the entire play was called back on a holding call on Matt Birk, one he visibly disagreed with. Instead, Moore picked up one first down on a 14-yard run, but the drive had too many mistakes to go anywhere but the halftime locker room.
O'Sullivan started the second half for the Lions as well, and Sharper ended his opening drive of the second half with an interception on a deep third-down pass. Jackson responded with a first-down interception to open the Vikings' ensuing drive, and Alexander returned this one to the Minnesota 31-yard line.
The Vikings defense looked to have the O'Sullivan shut down after a sack that made it third-and-22, but Spencer Johnson was flagged for a questionable roughing the passer that gave O'Sullivan new life on the Vikings 28-yard line. When Tatum Bell slipped a Tank Williams tackle attempt, the Lions had the ball on the 16-yard line. One play later, Calvin Johnson pushed Cedric Griffin out of the way for a 7-yard touchdown reception and a 17-7 lead less than four minutes into the second half.
The Vikings responded with a 60-yard kickoff return by Aundrae Allison that set up the offense on Detroit's 41-yard line. It didn't look like the excellent field position would turn into much early, but Jackson found Ferguson for 12 yards on third-and-11, and linebacker Boss Bailey was called for a 15-yard facemask on Peterson to put the ball on the 14-yard line. When an end-around to Bobby Wade was stuffed for a 9-yard loss, it forced Longwell onto the field one play later for a 32-yard field goal to cut Lions lead to 17-10 with 5:57 to play in the third quarter.
That lead would shrink even more when Kevin Williams sacked O'Sullivan on the second play of the ensuing drive, forcing a fumble that Ray Edwards recovered and returned 9 yards for another defensive touchdown and a 17-17 tie with 5:15 to play in the third quarter.
O'Sullivan found better chemistry with his teammates to start his next drive, connecting with Tatum Bell for 8 yards, Casey Fitzsimmons for 10 and Williams for 22 yards after slipping a tackle attempt by McCauley. However, Smith brought the drive to end with a third-down interception of O'Sullivan at the 3-yard line that kept Hanson off the field for a three-point attempt.
The teams exchanged punts on the next possessions before turnovers entered back into the equation.
Jackson launched an ill-advised pass off his back foot that safety Idrees Bashir intercepted, and Kitna entered the game in an attempt to rally his team to another fourth-quarter win.
Two completions and a facemask penalty put the Lions in Minnesota territory, and a 20-yard reception by Johnson put Detroit in scoring territory. But on the next play, Sharper knocked the ball out of Roy Williams' hands and Antoine Winfield recovered. Still, the Vikings couldn't move the ball across midfield, setting up the wild field goal opportunities at the end of regulation.
Kitna came out passing and connected with running back Brian Calhoun, Johnson, Williams and Furrey on consecutive attempts. Johnson then picked up just enough yardage on third-and-7 on an end around, and the Lions were in Hanson's range. However, the normally reliable long-range kicker pulled his 48-yard attempt wide left, giving the Vikings an opportunity with 45 seconds left.
Starting from the 38-yard line, Moore took a screen pass 20 yards, and a 7-yard pass to Wade set up Longwell for a 52-yard attempt. Like Hanson, Longwell's attempt drifted left and bounced off the upright to send the game to overtime.
Jackson left the game after the first play in overtime with what appeared to be a groin injury, but Bollinger converted third-and-10 with an 11-yard pass to Jeff Dugan. When Peterson gained 11 yards on each of the next two plays, it looked like the Vikings were finding a rhythm on offense. But just that quickly it disappeared. Bollinger took a 2-yard sack and, one play later, couldn't handle the snap from Birk, a fumble that Rogers recovered at the Minnesota 49-yard line.
Despite being knocked out of the game in the first half, Kitna wasn't afraid to sacrifice his body. His first-down pass was batted at the line of scrimmage, a deflection he caught and ran for 9 yards. One play later, he was scrambling for 5 yards and a first down. And when Calhoun ripped off a 17-yard run, Hanson was back on the field for a 37-yard game-winning attempt. He was true with this kick, giving the Lions a 20-17 overtime win to keep them in a tie with Green Bay at 2-0 for the NFC North lead.
The Vikings fall to 1-1, thanks to mistakes that eventually caught up to them and sent them to a .500 record.
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