MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Injuries forced Minnesota and Detroit to
switch quarterbacks this week, and Brad Johnson renewed the
Vikings' faith in their replacement.
Joey Harrington's return as the Lions' starter, though, produced
far less favorable results.
Johnson passed for 136 yards and two touchdowns in relief of
Daunte Culpepper, Michael Bennett rushed 18 times for 106 yards and
Minnesota beat Detroit 27-14 on Sunday to create a tie for second
place in the punchless NFC North.
"It does feel good," said the 37-year-old Johnson, who started
for the first time since Tampa Bay benched him after the fourth
game of last season. "It's been a long time."
Johnson, who began his career with the Vikings and made 24
starts for them from 1996-98, sandwiched second-quarter scoring
tosses to Bennett and Nate Burleson around rookie Ciatrick Fason's
first touchdown on a 3-yard run.
They needed only seven offensive plays for those 21 points in a
span of less than 4 minutes, the last two TDs following a fumble
and an interception by Harrington deep in Detroit's territory.
Suddenly, Minnesota (3-5) had a 24-0 lead and was on its way to
an eighth straight win over the Lions.
"Our offense isn't doing what it's supposed to be doing,"
Harrington said. "A lot of different people not quite working
Leading rusher Kevin Jones was sidelined in the second quarter
by an injured right shoulder, but Detroit (3-5) had plenty of other
critical problems -- perhaps beginning Thursday when coach Steve
Mariucci named Harrington the starter over a banged-up Jeff Garcia.
Garcia, still bothered by a left leg he broke in the final
exhibition game, started the last two games. But Mariucci indicated
Garcia wouldn't be ready to practice yet by Monday -- or possibly
even Wednesday -- leaving the position unsettled for another week.
"He's not there yet," Mariucci said.
Harrington finished 28-for-48 for 263 yards and two
interceptions, plus the costly fumble, but he never looked
comfortable in the pocket and threw several weak and wobbly balls.
He often failed to feel out where the rush was coming from while
being steadily pressured by a revived Minnesota defense that
switched back to a 4-3 scheme after three weeks using the 3-4.
Scottie Vines caught nine passes for 109 yards, but Harrington
clearly missed his top targets. Rookie Mike Williams, already
fighting a knee injury, turned his ankle during the game and wasn't
at full strength. Roy Williams, who missed the past three weeks
with a strained quadriceps, was only able to give the Lions a
couple of plays. And Charles Rogers, out the past four games during
a drug suspension, didn't practice well enough during the week to
"Of course I'd love to have them in there, but it's just
something you deal with," Harrington said. "We've been in this
Minnesota revived its running game, finding plenty of holes
through a Lions defensive line that was missing Pro Bowl tackle
Shaun Rogers to a knee injury.
Starter Mewelde Moore, who sprained his right wrist in the
fourth quarter and finished with 11 carries for 49 yards, watched
Bennett re-establish himself as a featured back -- for one
afternoon, at least. This was his first 100-yard game since Dec. 7,
2003, against Seattle.
Johnson went 15-for-22 with one fumble and just one completion
longer than 20 yards in relief of Culpepper, who sustained a
massive season-ending injury to his right knee in last week's loss
The Lions came to life with a nine-play, 75-yard drive late in
the first half -- highlighted by Vines, who beat Ralph Brown and
hauled in a 40-yard pass from Harrington at the 1.
Artose Pinner plunged into the end zone on the next play to make
it 24-7. The Vikings were stagnant in the third quarter, and
Harrington cut the lead to 10 on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Marcus
Pollard on the first play of the fourth.
But that was the end of Harrington's -- and Detroit's -- success.
"You put pressure on him, and he gets happy feet back there.
Then he's not as accurate," said Antoine Winfield, whose
interception set up Burleson's nifty, one-handed TD catch in the
second quarter. "I think I would've went with Garcia, but he's
The Vikings won't have that kind of choice, because Culpepper is
on injured reserve. Johnson gives them confidence, though, that
they can stay in contention down the stretch.
"He's a smart quarterback. He's going to be efficient for us,"
coach Mike Tice said.
The Vikings had been outscored 94-10 in the second quarter
of their first seven games. ... Jones rushed for 15 yards on seven