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Vikings rebound with win over Lions

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- There was certainly enough pressure to go around.

The Minnesota Vikings defense, so stout early, had become leaky.

Quarterback Christian Ponder had failed to throw for 100 yards in two of his last three starts.

The Vikings, after a 4-1 start, had lost three out of four games, including two straight, and were about to take to Mall of America Field without injured receiver Percy Harvin.

Which is why, after a 34-24 victory over the NFC North Division rival Detroit Lions Sunday, there was plenty of redemption to go around in the Vikings' locker room.

This was a pivotal game for both teams. The Vikings (6-3) came in with a two-game losing streak. The Lions (4-5), after a slow start, had won two in a row. It appeared these were two ships about to pass in the middle of the afternoon.

But wait.

The Vikings defense was wonderful early, good enough late, forcing two turnovers that were turned into 10 points. Adrian Peterson was incredible, especially at the end, when his 61-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run essentially iced the game. Peterson had his fourth straight 100-yard game, gaining 171 yards on 27 carries.

And then there was Ponder. Maligned for much of the last month, he completed 24 of 32 passes for 221 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. During the week, Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson essentially asked Ponder not to worry so much.

"He said to go out and play and stop worrying about the consequences," Ponder said. "Just go out and let it rip."

And now the Vikings are headed into a bye week at 6-3, 2-0 in division play.

"To be 6-3 going into the bye, to win in our division, all plusses for our team," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "I can't say enough about our players."

The Lions? Matthew Stafford appeared ready to produce another second-half comeback. He threw for 329 yards and three scores, hitting Calvin Johnson 12 times for 207 yards. But the Vikings did not yield, answering every Lions score with one of their own, outscoring the Lions 18-14 in the fourth quarter.

"You have to give them credit," said Stafford. "We'd go down and score a touchdown and they would come right back and put seven on the board."

Ponder got it going early, hitting rookie Jarius Wright -- Harvin's replacement making his NFL debut -- with a 54-yard pass to the Lions' 1-yard line on the team's first possession. Two plays later Wright hauled in his first NFL TD pass.

That set the stage for a first half in which the Vikings didn't finish enough drives but still held a 13-3 halftime lead because Stafford and the Lions couldn't get anything going. But that changed. Stafford led consecutive lightning-quick scoring drives, bringing Detroit within a touchdown with most of the fourth quarter remaining.

But the Vikings didn't yield. Peterson scored, then the Vikings forced a Johnson fumble on the Lions' next play, turning it into the last of Blair Walsh's four field goals.

"We had to be more consistent," said linebacker Chad Greenway, who had an interception. "But this, today, is who we are, who we were early in the season. We just had to figure out how to do it again."

Ponder spread it around, completing passes to 10 players, including himself, when he caught the deflection of his own pass. Tight end Kyle Rudolph caught seven passes for 64 yards, including a 20-yard fourth quarter TD.

"We weren't in a must-win situation, but it was dang close," defensive end Jared Allen said. "It was more like a better-win situation. We had to come home and bounce back."

The Lions, meanwhile, have to figure out how to do the same.

"It is what it is," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "We have three games at home and we start this week against Green Bay. It doesn't matter what's happened to us in the past. We have to play better than this in order to win."

Notes: Peterson reached 1,000 yards for the fifth time, a franchise record. ... As expected, Vikings receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) was not active. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Michael Jenkins, and the Vikings also activated rookie Jarius Wright for the first time. ... Safety Mistral Raymond returned after missing six games with an ankle sprain, did not start, but split time at strong safety with Jamarca Sanford. ... Fred Evans started at defensive tackle in place of the injured Letroy Guion (turf toe). ... Tight end John Carlson (concussion) returned to action. ... The Lions again played without both starting safeties, with Louis Delmas (knee) missing his second straight game and sixth overall and Amari Spievey (concussion) missing his third straight game.
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