In what could prove to be a season-saving performance, Daunte Culpepper led a determined comeback and Minnesota's much-maligned defense made it count against sliding Detroit.
The Vikings shut out the Lions' offense in the second half, overcame a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter and ended their three-game losing streak Sunday with a 22-19 victory.
Culpepper completed 22-of-32 passes for 233 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for Minnesota (6-4) in a critical division matchup. And he did it without Moss for the fifth straight week because of a strained right hamstring.
"The character of this team really showed today," Culpepper said.
Detroit (4-6) dropped its fourth in a row, scoring only 10 points against a defense that gave up 65 over the last two games in last-second losses at Indianapolis and Green Bay.
"It started last week, when a lot of guys -- especially the veterans -- really started to take over the team a little bit," said Lance Johnstone, who sacked Joey Harrington three times. "We started holding everyone accountable."
Eddie Drummond ran the opening kickoff back for a 92-yard touchdown, his third score for the Lions in a five-return span after setting an NFL record with two punt returns for TDs in the fourth quarter last week at Jacksonville.
Rookie Kevin Jones rushed for a career-high 100 yards, but only 5 of them came after halftime -- when the league's worst running team re-emerged. The Lions were penalized nine times for 116 yards, including an unnecessary roughness call on Jones early in the fourth quarter that gave them a third-and-17 at the 16 instead of a third-and-2.
"I need to keep my cool and not get into trouble," Jones said.
The flag came at a critical juncture. Culpepper had just finished the first of two long touchdown marches in the final period with an 8-yard pass and two-point conversion throw to Nate Burleson.
Detroit punted, and Culpepper promptly guided the Vikings on the go-ahead drive capped by a 1-yard plunge from Moe Williams that made it 22-19 with 5:27 remaining. Williams got to the goal line with a 14-yard reception on third-and-12.
The Vikings, going without a huddle most of the time, rediscovered their rhythm on those possessions that together went 140 yards and required 14 minutes, 11 seconds.
"I told them that we're the best 'O' in the league," Culpepper said. "Let's play like it."
"In games like this, you can isolate four or five plays that you need to make to win the game," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. "And we didn't do it."
Minnesota punted the ball back to Detroit at the 2-minute warning, but Antoine Winfield intercepted an underneath pass from Harrington on the first play to seal a much-needed victory. Harrington, whose job might be in jeopardy, went 12-for-19 for just 91 yards and one touchdown.
He was pleased by his performance, though.
"I threw some great balls downfield and made some good decisions," Harrington said. "The only ball I wish I had back was that last one."
The Lions were adamant that they're good enough to escape this funk.
"We felt great all day," said Harrington, who threw a TD pass to tight end Stephen Alexander late in the first quarter. "We never felt like there was a time in which they stopped us."
The NFC North race just got a lot more difficult for them, though.
"There were teams we should've beaten," cornerback Dre' Bly said. "The good thing about our situation is that we have a lot of games left to play."
Minnesota's biggest fear in this game was Drummond, who wasted no time showing why. Jose Cortez's kick sailed to the 8-yard line, and Drummond -- a third-year player from Penn State -- sped straight ahead before veering left and racing untouched down the sideline.
Drummond and Kansas City's Dante Hall -- last season's special teams standout -- are the only players in NFL history with both two punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a single season. ... Culpepper led the Vikings with 35 yards rushing.