Lions stun Vikings for first 3-0 start since 1980By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer Monday, Sep 26, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—That 20-0 halftime deficit under the Metrodome might’ve stifled many of their predecessors, but these Detroit Lions weren’t deterred. Each week, it seems, they’re stopping some kind of long losing trend.
That 20-point halftime lead held by the Vikings? It still wasn’t big enough for a team making a troubling habit of second-half stumbles.
Matthew Stafford(notes) threw two touchdown passes in the second half to Calvin Johnson(notes) to rally Detroit, and Jason Hanson’s(notes) fourth field goal of the game gave the Lions a 26-23 overtime victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
The Lions (3-0) have the league’s longest active winning streak at seven straight games, including the final four contests of last season. Heck, they even won all four of their preseason games.
Yes, the Lions, who hadn’t won in Minnesota since 1997.
Yes, the Lions, who haven’t started a season with three straight wins since 1980.
“It goes to show we’re not going to lay down. We saw in their first two games they got relaxed after they had a big lead. We felt if we started to put some points up we could get in their head if we continued to make plays,” said Johnson, whose Willie Mays-style over-the-shoulder 40-yard sideline catch with Cedric Griffin(notes) in tight coverage set up Hanson’s winner less than two minutes into extra time.
The Vikings (0-3) insisted they didn’t relax.
They took extra steps to avoid just that and emerge from the intermission with the same edge, having squandered a 17-7 lead at San Diego in a 24-17 loss and blown a 17-0 advantage to Tampa Bay in a 24-20 defeat.
Defensive end Jared Allen(notes), who had three of their five sacks of Stafford, was just as active in the locker room and on the sideline as he was on the rush — frequently exhorting his teammates to not let up.
Afterward, spirits were sagged.
“It ain’t lack of effort. We’ve got talented guys, and we see what happens when we fire on all cylinders: People can’t move the ball on us,” Allen said. “Something’s not right.”
The numbers behind Minnesota’s tale of two halves this season are stunning. The Vikings have outscored their foes over the first and second quarters 54-7. Their cumulative post-halftime deficit is 67-6, with just one of 15 third downs converted by their offense and 13 of 22 by their opponents.
“I’ll tell you this: There will be adjustments. This won’t happen again. This will not happen again,” said Adrian Peterson, who finished with 78 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Vikings, but only five yards on five carries after halftime.
The signature moment for the Vikins in this game was early in the fourth quarter, facing fourth-and-1 at Detroit’s 17-yard line.
The crowd was revved up and the players on offense so determined to score that they waved at the field-goal unit to stay off the field. Head coach Leslie Frazier decided to go for it, refusing to settle for a kick with the Lions roaring back and within three points.
“We were positive that we could get it. We worked on it in practice. They didn’t do anything that we didn’t expect,” Frazier said.
The Vikings were too consumed—and confused—by their own collapse to recognize the significance of this win for the Lions.
Stafford completed 32 of 46 passes for 378 yards, and he saved his best throw of the day for his last to Johnson. With blitzing linebacker Chad Greenway(notes) in Stafford’s grill, the third-year quarterback heaved a pass off his back foot in Johnson’s direction. The 6-foot-5 Johnson hauled in the ball with Griffin all over him, and Hanson calmly came out to end the game.
“We have good players. We just needed to settle down. The worst thing we could do was to throw gasoline on the fire,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who charged on the field and pumped his fist after the victory. “I have a lot of confidence in this team, a lot of confidence that if we’re in a slump then we’re going to break out of it.”
The Lions rushed for only 20 yards on 19 attempts, and the Vikings put Stafford under constant pressure. In the first half, he threw to a lot of empty spots on the turf, looking out of sync with his receivers. But he found his groove in the middle of the field with tight end Brandon Pettigrew(notes), who had 11 catches and 112 yards.
“We got back to what we do best: spreading the ball around, playing fast, getting up on the line of scrimmage,” Stafford said. “Guys were making plays for me. That’s all I can say.”