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Ex-Lion Pinner (3 TDs) haunts former team as Vikes roll

DETROIT (AP) -- Artose Pinner enjoyed the best game of his career
against the team that cut him three months ago.

But he insisted it was more gratifying to help the Minnesota
Vikings stay in the playoff picture.

Pinner had career highs with 125 yards rushing and three
touchdowns Sunday to lift Minnesota to a 30-20 win over the Detroit
Lions.

"It was more important that it gives us a chance to stay in the
playoff race," he said.

Despite losing five of their previous six games and being under
.500, the Vikings (6-7) still have a shot at playing in January.

"It's kind of like NCAA Tournament time and we're still in
it," Minnesota safety Darren Sharper said. "If we win our next
three, I believe we'll definitely be in."

The Lions (2-11), meanwhile, have lost five straight and the
only consolation for the hapless franchise is it can't break the
record for the most losses in a six-season span. Detroit, an
NFL-worst 23-70 since 2001, would fall one setback short of the 74
losses Tampa Bay had from 1983-88 if its closes the season without
a win.

Offensive tackle Jeff Backus has started every game during the
miserable stretch, and the past two weeks he had to congratulate
former Michigan teammates: Tom Brady in New England and Steve
Hutchinson of the Vikings.

"I'm jealous of those guys," Backus said. "They've been able
to have success and enjoy their careers. What fun is there in
losing every week?"

One home game after Miami's Joey Harrington threw three TDs in a
win against Detroit, which drafted him third overall in 2002,
another former Lion had a big day at Ford Field.

Pinner, among Detroit's final cuts before the season, replaced
injured Chester Taylor (ribs) and played ahead of backups expected
to take a larger role.

"We had to introduce ourselves," Minnesota Brad Johnson joked.

Pinner ran for TDs on Minnesota's first two drives to double his
previous career high in scoring. By the middle of the second
quarter, he surpassed his previous career high of 68 yards rushing
set in 2004, a year after Detroit drafted him in the fourth round.

His best game this season was 29 yards rushing at San Francisco,
a performance that was followed by one without a carry and three
inactive games.

"I was able to touch the ball over 20 times and make plays,"
said Pinner, who had 29 carries -- six more than his previous career
high. "That's all I ever asked for and to have the opportunity to
do it here makes it that much sweeter."

Detroit had five of its six turnovers after three quarters, but
trailed by just 10 because Minnesota had two turnovers of its own --
one of which was returned for a score.

"We left a lot of points out there, but the defense did a great
job," Pinner said.

The Vikings seemed to put the game away early in the fourth
quarter with Pinner's third TD -- matching his total from any
previous season -- that put them ahead 30-13.

But the Lions stayed in the game as Kevin Jones scored on the
ensuing possession to pull within 10 and they drove to the
Minnesota 2 with 3½ minutes left.

With a chance to make it a one-possession game with a field
goal, Detroit went for it on fourth down and Jon Kitna was sacked.

"It was tough to get down there against that defense," Lions
coach Rod Marinelli insisted. "We wanted to get it in, get a three
and out and go from there."

Kitna was 28-of-41 for 294 yards with a TD, three interceptions
and a fumble. Kitna entered the game tied for the NFL lead with 22
turnovers and added four to that woeful total, but Marinelli said
he will not make a quarterback change.

"It's not all one guy," Marinelli said.

The Vikings stuck with Johnson at quarterback, instead of taking
a chance on rookie Tarvaris Jackson, and he was 14-of-22 for 159
yards with an interception and a rushing TD that made it 20-0 on
their third possession. Coach Brad Childress said Johnson did
enough to keep his job.

Minnesota, the NFL's best team against the run, held Detroit to
minus-3 yards rushing and Jones left with a left foot injury after
being stopped on a second-and-goal at the 1 before Kitna was sacked
late in the game.

Detroit's Roy Williams and Mike Furrey combined for 15 catches
and 157 yards, but both fumbled.

Game notes
Lions president Matt Millen had an informal chat before the
game with a small group of reporters, but declined to comment on
his job status -- with four years left on his contract -- or about
anything involving the franchise he has led since 2001. ... The
Vikings tied a franchise record with four rushing TDs and beat
Detroit for the 10th straight time. ... Jones' foot will be
examined Monday. ...Detroit's starting OGs, Ross Verba (groin) and
Blaine Saipaia (chest), were injured.