1:00 PM ET, December 4, 2005
Minnesota (6-5) at Detroit (4-7) Sunday 1:00 pm EST
DETROIT (Ticker) -- Mike Tice was the coach believed to be on the hot seat. Instead, Steve Mariucci got fired.
The Vikings have won seven straight games against the Lions and 11 of the last 12 meetings.
After being "disturbed" by a 27-7 loss to Atlanta on Thanksgiving, Lions president Matt Millen fired Mariucci and named defensive coordinator Dick Jauron as interim coach.
Mariucci had two full years left on a five-year, $25 million contract, but Millen believed a change needed to be made with five games left in the 2005 season.
"We had high expectations this year," Millen said. "I don't think we have developed our young players and that is bothersome. I believe we have underachieved and that is unacceptable."
Quarterback Joey Harrington is now in his fourth year with the Lions after being selected third overall in the draft. Yet Mariucci clearly favored Jeff Garcia, his trusted veteran from San Francisco, at quarterback.
After recovering from a broken leg in the preseason, Garcia went 1-1 in his two starts, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown in overtime in a loss to Chicago on October 30. Two weeks later, Harrington started because Garcia was bothered by knee soreness and threw for three touchdowns in a win over Arizona.
In the Thanksgiving loss, Harrington got the start because Mariucci said Garcia was still bothered by knee soreness. Yet late in the second quarter, Mariucci yanked Harrington, who was 6-of-13 for 61 yards with an interception, in favor of Garcia.
Lions cornerback Dre' Bly and Garcia were among the players upset with the firing of Mariucci. Bly told the Detroit Free Press that the team's record would be better if Harrington played up to his status as the third overall pick in the draft. Garcia criticized some of Millen's front office moves.
Since Millen took over as president and director of football operations in 2001, the Lions are 19-55 and the only team in that span with four consecutive seasons of 10 or more losses. However, Millen was given a five-year extension in August.
Jauron coached the Chicago Bears from 1999-2003 before being fired and replaced by Lovie Smith. Jauron guided the Bears to a division title in 2001, but was 35-46 in his tenure, including 11-21 in his last two seasons.
"No one wants to get a job in this situation, but that's the way this business can be," Jauron said.
Tice appeared to be in danger of getting fired after the Vikings got off to a 2-5 start and were reeling from an off-the-field October 6 incident that disgraced the organization.
Members of the Vikings allegedly chartered two cruise boats during their bye week and turned it into a wild sex party. At least 17 members of the team were among 90 passengers on the two boats in Lake Minnetonka, and crew members reportedly described players allegedly having sex, drinking heavily and propositioning female crew members to perform sex acts.
Pending an investigation by local authorities, no charges have been filed.
Along with that, the Vikings lost Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper for the rest of the season after he suffered torn knee ligaments in an October 30 loss at Carolina.
However, veteran quarterback Brad Johnson has found a way to rescue what appeared to be a sinking team, leading the Vikings to four straight wins. The first of those was a 27-14 victory over the Lions on November 6.
Last week, Johnson threw three touchdowns to Marcus Robinson in a 24-12 victory over Cleveland.
"When Brad stepped in, a lot of people thought our season was over," Vikings wide receiver Travis Taylor said. "But he was a Super Bowl MVP and he's leading us in the huddle."
Minnesota also forced five turnovers in the win, including three interceptions. Two of the picks were by safety Darren Sharper, who leads the NFL with seven interceptions.
Series: The Vikings lead, 57-29-2, and have won four of the last five meetings in Detroit.
Next week: Minnesota hosts St. Louis, December 11 Detroit visits Green Bay, December 11
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Garcia will need help
The Steve Mariucci era is officially over in Detroit, as his firing followed Thanksgiving Day's embarrassing home blowout loss to the Falcons. While the quarterbacks continue to take most of the heat, their supporting cast has done very little to solve the ongoing offensive woes. Injury-hobbled QB Jeff Garcia, who replaced an ineffective Joey Harrington last week, will attempt to turn things around versus a talented Vikings' defense that has seemingly gelled over the course of the last month.
Coach Mike Tice knows the pressure Mariucci was feeling, but his team has rallied to win four straight games. If the Vikings are to make it five in a row and keep pace with the NFC North-leading Bears, QB Brad Johnson must avoid mistakes and continue to efficiently spread the ball around to his various pass-catching weapons, compensating for an unreliable ground attack.
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|Avg Points Allowed||22.8||20.1|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Minnesota leads 9-1|
|Nov 6, 2005||MIN 27, DET 14|
|Dec 19, 2004||MIN 28, @DET 27|
|Nov 21, 2004||MIN 22, DET 19|
|Nov 23, 2003||MIN 24, DET 14|
|Sep 21, 2003||MIN 23, @DET 13|
|Dec 29, 2002||MIN 38, @DET 36|
|Oct 13, 2002||MIN 31, DET 24|
|Dec 16, 2001||MIN 24, @DET 27|
|Oct 14, 2001||MIN 31, DET 26|