Vikings upset Lions, end losing streak in NFC North at 11 games
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
DETROIT -- Percy Harvin took the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, and Marcus Sherels went 77 yards with a third-quarter punt for a score as the Minnesota Vikings ended an 11-game losing streak in the NFC North with a 20-13 victory Sunday at Ford Field.
The win gave the Vikings a 3-1 record and equaled their victory total for last season.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier also earned his first victory over an NFC North opponent.
Harvin gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead by taking the opening kickoff down the right side for a touchdown. It was the longest play in Vikings history and was the second time Harvin has taken the opening kick for a score in his four-year career.
The Lions appeared poised to tie the score quickly as quarterback Matthew Stafford's first pass of the game for receiver Calvin Johnson resulted in an interference penalty on safety Jamarca Sanford. That moved the ball from the Detroit 20-yard line to the Vikings 24.
The Vikings, however, held the Lions to 2 yards on the next three plays and kicker Jason Hanson came on to make a 40-yard field goal to pull the Lions within four points.
The Vikings increased their lead to 10-3 late in the first quarter when Blair Walsh made a 49-yard field goal ending a drive that consumed seven plays and included a 31-yard interference penalty on a deep pass by Christian Ponder for Jerome Simpson.
Lions cornerback Bill Bentley and Simpson were both shoving as Ponder's pass down the left sideline approached but it was Bentley who was penalized.
Simpson was suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and the Vikings hope was that he would provide a deep threat in the passing game.
Simpson managed to draw another pass interference penalty on Bentley with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. That infraction gave the Vikings a 26-yard gain to put the ball at the Lions 23.
Harvin was lined up in the backfield on the ensuing play and gained 14 yards to the Detroit 9. The Vikings were not able to get into the end zone, and Walsh ended up kicking a 27-yard field goal.
The Lions then drove 14 plays on their next possession but ended it with a 31-yard field goal from Hanson after Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew dropped back-to-back passes in the end zone on second and third down.
Johnson initially caught the pass thrown to him in the end zone, but rookie safety Harrison Smith came in and put a last-second hit on the receiver that knocked it loose.
The Lions had driven to the Vikings 13 before the drive stalled. Stafford completed passes of 19 yards to Johnson and 17 yards to Titus Young on back-to-back plays to help the Lions get deep into Vikings territory.
Sherels, who was celebrating his 25 birthday on Sunday, gave the Vikings a 13-point lead when he returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
The Lions were driving late in the third quarter when running back Mikel Leshoure lost the ball after a 15-yard gain at the Vikings 29. Sanford, who started in place of the injured Mistral Raymond, forced the fumble and also recovered it.
Trailing by 13, the Lions got to the Vikings 7 with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter. Detroit went for it on fourth-and-5 and Everson Griffen sacked Stafford to give the ball back to the Vikings. Griffen was in the game at right end because Jared Allen was on the sideline with what appeared to be leg cramps.
The Lions were without Johnson for the play because he had to leave the game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Chad Greenway that resulted in a unnecessary roughness penalty and almost certainly will result in a fine for the Vikings linebacker.
Johnson returned to the game for the Lions' next series and drew a pass interference call on cornerback Antoine Winfield.
The Lions proceeded to put together an 11-play drive that ended with Stafford extending the ball on third-and-1 to get a touchdown from the Vikings 1. Detroit running back Joique Bell had catches of 16, 13 and 23 yards on the scoring drive.
That would be the only touchdown scored by either offense in the game.
5: Times Percy Harvin has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in his career. That is the most by any player since Harvin entered the NFL in 2009. Only Chicago's Devin Hester has more combined punt returns and kickoff returns for touchdowns in that time (six).
102: Rushing yards for Adrian Peterson on 21 carries, the first time he has gone over the 100-yard mark since returning from reconstructive surgery on his left knee last December.
4: Receptions for Jerome Simpson, who was playing in his first game as a Viking after serving a three-game suspension to open the season. Simpson also drew two pass interference penalties.
46: Yards on a third-quarter field goal that Walsh missed. It was his first miss of the season after he had made the first nine field-goal attempts of his NFL career.
The Vikings' inactive list included safeties Mistral Raymond (ankle) and Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and linebacker Erin Henderson (concussion). Also inactive were quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, receivers Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright and tackle Mark Asper. Jamarca Sanford started for Raymond at safety and Marvin Mitchell started for Henderson at weak-side linebacker.
Nose tackle Letroy Guion left the game in the third quarter with an unspecified injury but was able to jog off the field under his own power and returned to the game.
Defensive end Jared Allen came out in the fourth quarter because of what appeared to be cramps but he also returned.
Detroit - Jason Hanson 40-yard field goal, 13:06. Drive: 4 plays, 58 yards, 1:42. Vikings 7, Lions 3
Vikings - Walsh 49-yard field goal, 1:16. Drive: 7-60-3:53. Vikings 10, Lions 3
Vikings - Walsh 27-yard field goal, 8:14. Drive: 11-82-4:56. Vikings 13, Lions 3
Detroit - Hanson 31-yard field goal, 1:46. Drive: 14-67-6:28. Vikings 13, Lions 6
Vikings - Marcus Sherels 77-yard punt return (Walsh kick), 13:09. Vikings 20, Lions 6
Detroit - Mattthew Stafford 1-yard run (Hanson kick), 2:56. Drive: 11-75-3:12. Vikings 20, Lions 13
The Vikings will return home to play the Tennessee Titans at 3:25 p.m. next Sunday. The Vikings lead the series against the former Houston Oilers, 7-4. The Vikings are 6-1 at home against the Titans/Oilers.