The Vikings and Lions were in a similar situation in 2001, when the Lions were looking for their first win and got it at the expense of the Vikings. Some of those Lions remain and talked about that game.
The Lions are 0-12. Their next opponent is Minnesota. To build confidence for Sunday, about all they can do is look back to when they beat the Vikings in 2001 and almost beat them earlier this season.
The situation was very similar seven years ago. The Lions were 0-12. Their next opponent was Minnesota. People were laughing at them across the country and talking about the possibility of the NFL's first 0-16 season.
The Lions who were on that team, too, have vivid memories.
"It's the same as it was in 2001," running back Aveion Cason said. "Nobody wanted to be a part of history. Every team wants to come out with at least a win during the season. That was always our focus, to go out and get a win."
The Lions beat the Vikings, 27-24, and celebrated wildly. The players dumped a Gatorade cooler on coach Marty Mornhinweg. Wide receiver Johnnie Morton
threw his helmet into the air and told comedian Jay Leno, who had been making the Lions the butt of jokes, to kiss his you-know-what.
"It was like we won the Super Bowl," Cason said.
Kicker Jason Hanson
remembers just feeling relieved that the Lions finally won.
"It was the first time we had ever faced anything like that," Hanson said. "You dig a big hole for yourself and you've got to fight just to get a win. You get to the end of the year and teams are scrapping for playoffs and teams are turning it up a notch, and so you put yourself in a tough spot. Just about the time you feel like, ‘Oh, OK, what a season,' you've got to play your best football just to get a win."
Center Dominic Raiola
doesn't remember it fondly.
"It was frustrating, just like this," Raiola said. "It was good to get the monkey off our back. But at the same time, it was 1-12. So you get excited, but you're still disappointed. You know what I'm saying?"
We know. Speaking of disappointment, the Lions had plenty the last time they faced the Vikings. Their 12-10 loss Oct. 12 at the Metrodome was their closest loss of the year.
Had quarterback Dan Orlovsky
not lost his bearings in his first NFL start, run out the back of the end zone and taken a safety, things might have been different. Had cornerback Leigh Bodden
not taken a questionable pass interference late in the game, setting up the winning field goal, 0-16 might not be a topic of conversation today.
The Lions limited running back Adrian Peterson
in the game and put pressure on quarterback Gus Frerotte
. Though Peterson had 111 rushing yards, his longest run was 13 yards and he fumbled twice. Though Frerotte threw an 86-yard touchdown pass, he was sacked five times and threw an interception.
"I still think that was our one victory, for sure victory," Bodden said. "We did give up a big play, which was our fault, but I think we still played good enough to win and I feel like at the end that call was the deciding factor.
"Who knows if we had gotten that one win how we would have felt and how things could have went after that? It just didn't go for us."
It hasn't all year.
SERIES HISTORY: 95th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead, 62-30-2. Lions' closest loss this season came Oct. 12 at Minnesota, 12-10. Lions have lost 12 of past 13, 16 of past 18 and 19 of past 21 against the Vikings. Last time the Lions started 0-12, in 2001, they beat the Vikings for their first victory.
The Lions are preparing as if they will face Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Minnesota's standout defensive tackles had been suspended for violating the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances, but the suspensions are currently held up in court. "They're really good players, and we know that," coach Rod Marinelli said. "There's nothing you can really do except prepare yourself."
Left guard Edwin Mulitalo said the Lions aren't in a position to think they have any advantage, even if Williams and Williams don't play. "It would be different if we had won some games," Mulitalo said. "We don't have any room to say, ‘Hey, it might be easier.' Yeah, it's going to be felt on that defense, but nothing that we can say, ‘It's going to be an easier game.' "
Coach Rod Marinelli has no sympathy for the Vikings. No one is giving him any sympathy because he likely will be without his starting defensive ends against the league's leading rusher, Adrian Peterson. Left end Jared DeVries is on injured reserve. Right end Dewayne White is doubtful with a calf strain. "This league, nobody has sympathy for nobody," Marinelli said. "That's what makes it beautiful. No, it is. That's the part of this league I love. There's no excuses, no crybabies. Just line up and do your job, because nobody cares."
The Lions have only two interceptions this season, worst in the NFL, and only one by a defensive back. But that one was by cornerback Leigh Bodden against Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte in the Lions' 12-10 loss Oct. 12 at the Metrodome. "We just had a good call when they ran that play," Bodden said. "He threw it, and I was able to get it. This year, when I got things covered, it's like they don't throw it. Hopefully I can play a lot of tight coverage again this week and be in position to get another pick. That's my goal." Does that pick give him some confidence entering the game? "I always got confidence," he said. "But the way this season is going, yeah, it gives me confidence that maybe I can repeat that this week."
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper said he doesn't want to show anything to the Vikings, who traded him to Miami in 2006. "I want to get a win," Culpepper said. "As far as my days in Minnesota, it was what it was. I don't have any ill feelings towards them. I'm just excited about the opportunity I have right now." Culpepper has already had his reunion with the Vikings. He played at Minnesota last year with Oakland. "Going back and playing at Minnesota, that was very exciting for me," Culpepper said. "I think it's very exciting. It wasn't awkward at all. Football's football. We went up there. Obviously we didn't win, but it was fun to go up there and go against a lot of my old friends. It's a similar situation now. I'm just with a different team, but the opportunity's still great."
Jason Hanson has been a vocal leader lately. Marinelli doesn't think it's strange that the player stepping up is his kicker. "Not strange at all," Marinelli said. "He's one of our captains. He was voted by this team to be a captain, so he is a leader by the team electing him. But he is strong. He leads by example. He leads by practice. He leads in every phase of it. When he does say something, everybody listens. They all listen, because he chooses his words wisely."
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 — Quarterbacks who have attempted a pass for the Lions this season, most in team history since at least 1960.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hard when you put everything you've got into it in the off-season and this happens. It's hard, man. It's hard for people to be around me. It's hard when I leave here. It's hard everywhere I go. You're embarrassed. It's embarrassing." — C Dominic Raiola, on dealing with being 0-12.