Minnesota avoids Central cellar


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings were back to their old
ways on Sunday -- building a big lead behind a powerful offense and
almost blowing it with a withering defense.

The Detroit Lions didn't go down easily as the Vikings watched a
25-point lead nearly evaporate in the second half, and hung on for
a 31-26 victory.

"It could have gone either way," Minnesota coach Dennis Green
said. "We are going to have to play much better next week against
Green Bay. There's no doubt about that."

Can the Lions build on the way they played at the end of this

Absolutely. The Lions showed some character the way they came back after
being down early. They came back, put an offense together and basically shut
the Vikings down.

The Lions also gained confidence in their quarterback. Charlie Batch played
well and led the comeback -- and they had an opportunity to win the game on
the last drive. If they get the ball out of bounds, they have a shot at the
end zone for the win.

Detroit has to feel good about that second-half performance. Now the Lions
need to take that and build on it next week; if they can do that, then this
game will become a positive.

ESPN.com NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato has served as director of player
personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


Daunte Culpepper ran seven times for 83 yards and two
touchdowns, and threw for another.

"We've got to just keep plugging at it," Culpepper said.
"We're not far. I thought we ran the ball very well today against
their front four."

The Vikings (2-3), who surpassed 30 points for the first time in
10 regular-season games, avoided falling into a tie for last place
in the NFC Central. Culpepper was 20-for-28 for 244 yards and a
touchdown, and an interception.

But Minnesota went scoreless for the last 25:25.

"We just didn't move the ball in the second half," Culpepper
said. "We didn't match their intensity."

The Lions -- 0-4 for the first time since 1989 -- had scored just
one touchdown in the Lions' first three games but had 20 points in
the second half.

Charlie Batch, starting for the first time since Week 1, finally
figured out the Lions' new West Coast offense. He was 31-of-41 for
a career-high 345 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
James Stewart rushed 16 times for 108 yards and caught a scoring
pass from Batch in the third quarter -- the Lions' first touchdown
in seven quarters.

"I think you can see from a confidence standpoint, guys were
making more plays," Batch said. "We finally took the monkey off
our backs."

But a loss is a loss.

"There are a lot of positives -- but there are no moral
victories," Detroit's first-year coach Marty Mornhinweg said.
"The scoreboard is the only thing that counts. We're playing with
toughness and intensity, but we've got to play smarter."

Detroit committed eight penalties for 90 yards. The Lions forced
a Vikings punt late in the first quarter, but an offsides call gave
Minnesota's Jim Kleinsasser a chance to drag Luther Elliss for 2
yards on fourth-and-1. The Vikings later scored on Travis
Prentice's 1-yard plunge.

"When you are rolling, you can win with eight penalties,"
Mornhinweg said. "We are not rolling yet."

The Vikings were far from perfect against a Detroit defensive
backfield that wound up with barely enough healthy players.

Randy Moss, who had six catches for 78 yards, dropped a
touchdown pass in the second quarter and let Todd Lyght wrestle an
interception away from him at the Detroit 7 in the fourth.

Cris Carter caught eight passes for 111 yards and a 47-yard
touchdown pass from Culpepper that put the Vikings up 31-6 in the
third quarter.

But the Lions didn't fold like they did last week in a 35-0 loss
to St. Louis.

Stewart caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Batch in the third
to cut Minnesota's lead to 31-13. After a Vikings punt, Detroit
marched 59 yards in six plays to make it 31-19 on a 16-yard
touchdown pass from Batch to Crowell.

After Lyght's interception, the Lions went 93 yards in 12 plays.
On fourth down at the Vikings' 21, Johnnie Morton dived to catch
Batch's pass in the back end of the zone. Officials initially ruled
it incomplete, but Detroit challenged and the call was reversed to
make it 31-26.

"We've got to be more sound, more solid," said safety Henry
Jones. "In the second half, we really gave them something. We've
just got to get better."

Game notes
Prentice became the first Vikings back to score on his
first carry with the team. ... Detroit safeties Tommy Bennett
(hamstring) and Kurt Schulz (back) and cornerback Bryant Westbrook
(Achilles') weren't in uniform because of injuries. Safety Ron Rice
(sprained ankle) and cornerback Terry Fair (sprained foot) got hurt
during the game and didn't return. Lyght played with a sore
shoulder. ... Carter scored his 127th TD, passing Jim Brown for
fourth place on the NFL's career list. ... Chris Hovan had three of
Minnesota's four sacks. ... Robert Porcher, Chris Claiborne and
Shaun Rogers each had two sacks of Culpepper, sacked six times for
the second straight game. ... Crowell caught nine passes for 125


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