Like most coaches, Vikings head coach Mike Tice is goal-oriented. He believes in the numbers and checks them regularly. Many times, he even publicizes them, just like Brian Billick did so often when he was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota.
Tice announced many goals throughout 2002. From the Randy Ratio to becoming a better rushing team to stopping the run more effectively to simply having a better record in 2002 than the Vikings did in Dennis Green's final year. They have already accomplished many of those early goals with a younger, developing team, but that final goal is still left to be decided.
That is the biggest goal of all – wins. Without the Vikings' two-game winning streak or their win over Green Bay in the Metrodome, it is possible that Tice could have lost his players by now. They could, as they say, be playing out the string tomorrow in Detroit. Instead, the Vikings did beat Green Bay in the Metrodome and have used that game as a springboard for much better play in the second half of the season.
So when the Vikings enter the new Ford Field tomorrow for their final game of 2002, they will be playing for a number of meaningful things. They have a chance to pull together a three-game winning streak. They can actually have a winning record in the new NFC North Division. They can have sole claim to second place in the division. And, most importantly, they can meet one of Tice's main goals for 2002: to have a better record in 2002 than they did in 2001.
The Vikings won't be making the playoffs. That has been obvious since their bye after four games. But they do have a chance to end the season with a 6-10 record and some serious momentum heading into free agency, the draft and even a good vibe to start camps next spring and summer.
* The Vikings have won five of the last six games vs. Detroit, including the two games in the final 30 seconds of each game.
* The last win against the Lions came in Week 5, when the Vikings fell behind 14-0 early, but rallied for a 31-24 win.
* In four career games vs. the Lions, Daunte Culpepper has thrown for 988 yards with seven touchdown passes and one TD run. In Week 5, he threw for 295 yards and two TDs and added a rushing touchdown.
* In his career, Randy Moss has eight touchdowns in nine games vs. Detroit. He didn't score in Week 5 but was a key contributor, catching nine passes for 83 yards.
* The Vikings have a franchise-record 24 rushing touchdowns and have at least one in all but one game.
* Detroit has been just plain awful since Marty Mornhinweg took over two years ago. The team has lost seven straight games and has a 5-26 record – 5-10 at home and 0-16 on the road. No wonder Denny Green's name is coming up in coaching talk.
* The Vikings are 51-29-2 in the all-time series with the Lions.
* Who needs Michael Vick or Donovan McNabb? Daunte Culpepper leads all NFL quarterbacks with nine rushing touchdowns this season.
* Detroit RB James Stewart needs just four rushing yards to top 1,000 yards for the second time in three years.
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