Webb gives Vikings a spark but it isn't enough as Lions hang on to win
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DETROIT - Joe Webb had the Minnesota Vikings within a yard of a miraculous comeback Sunday at Ford Field but time finally ran out on the backup quarterback.
With the Vikings trailing by six points, the ball at the Detroit 1-yard line and nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, Webb fumbled when he was sacked by DeAndre Levy and time expired as the Lions held on for a 34-28 victory at Ford Field.
Replays showed that Levy grabbed Webb's facemask on the play but no call was made. The ball then bounced away from the end zone and was recovered by Lions defensive end Cliff Avril at the Vikings 43-yard line with no time left on the clock.
The fact the Vikings had a chance to win was amazing, considering they trailed 21-0 at one point in the first quarter and were down 31-14 when Webb was brought in to replace struggling rookie Christian Ponder.
Ponder, the 12th pick in last April's draft, was given the nod to start despite being extremely limited in practice last week because of a hip injury. The lack of preparation showed.
He threw three interceptions, two of which led to Detroit touchdowns, and was stripped of the ball on his first play from scrimmage on another turnover that resulted in a score.
The Vikings dropped to 2-11 on the season and have now lost five in a row; the Lions improved to 8-5.
Ponder was lifted in the third quarter in favor of Webb following his third interception. The move was for performance reasons and not because Ponder was hurting.
Webb, who took most of the first-team snaps on Wednesday and Thursday in practice, provided an immediate spark. He raced for a 65-yard touchdown in the third quarter and then directed another scoring drive in the fourth.
The Lions led 31-14 at halftime, making it the most points they had scored in an opening half since Nov. 17, 1985 when they put up the same number of points in a 41-21 victory over the Vikings.
Ponder finished 11 of 21 for 115 yards with two touchdowns. Webb completed 12 of 23 passes for 84 yards and led the Vikings with 109 yards on seven rushing attempts.
The Lions didn't score on their opening possession, but they did the first time the Vikings got the ball.
On the Vikings' first snap, Ponder dropped back to pass from the Lions 10-yard line but Avril beat right tackle Phil Loadholt and stripped the ball from Ponder.
Linebacker Stephen Tulloch recovered in the end zone to make it 7-0.
The Vikings got the ball back and moved to midfield on a 32-yard run by Percy Harvin. But on the next play, Ponder threw a pass into triple coverage for Devin Aromashodu and cornerback Alphonso Smith picked it off.
The Lions took advantage of the turnover on third-and-14 as quarterback Matthew Stafford hit Titus Young in stride down the left sideline for a 57-yard touchdown. Young got past cornerback Cedric Griffin and safety Jamarca Sanford was too late getting over.
The Lions made it 21-0 after Stefan Logan's 28-yard punt return put the ball at the Vikings 34. Stafford found tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a 17-yard gain to the Vikings 17, and two plays later Pettigrew caught a 12-yard touchdown pass.
The Vikings cut the deficit to 14 points late in the opening quarter when tight end Visanthe Shiancoe caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ponder.
That completed a 10-play, 80-yard drive that included an 18-yard completion to Shiancoe, a 15-yard run by Toby Gerhart and a 13-yard run by Lorenzo Booker on which the running back fumbled and Aromashodu recovered and took the ball to the Lions 41-yard line.
Ponder gave those points back on the next drive when his pass for Greg Camarillo was easily intercepted by Smith and returned 30 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Ponder's up-and-down half continued on the Vikings' next series. He led a 60-yard, 10-play drive that ended with the rookie finding Harvin for a 7-yard touchdown. Harvin also caught a 16-yard pass and Ponder scrambled for a 14-yard gain on the drive.
Facing third-and-3 from the Lions 10, Aromashodu caught a 4-yard pass for a first down.
The Vikings' issues with turnovers continued late in the second quarter when Booker fumbled on a carry from his own 16 and defensive tackle Sammie Hill recovered. The Lions could not get a touchdown but did come away with a 30-yard field goal from Jason Hanson to lead 31-14 at the half.
That meant 24 of the Lions' first-half points came off Vikings turnovers.
Ponder threw his third interception of the day - and fifth in two games - in the third quarter when he threw across his body for Harvin and was intercepted by cornerback Eric Wright.
On the previous play, the Vikings had moved from their 35 to the Lions 37 on a 28-yard completion from Ponder to Aromashodu.
Ponder took a big hit on the interception return by Wright and was lifted from the game.
Webb had an immediate impact, converting three third downs with runs that went for a combined 77 yards. He capped the drive by taking off and going 65 yards for a touchdown on third-and-10 to make it 31-21.
The Lions got the lead back to 13 on a 26-yard field goal by Hanson in the fourth quarter but Webb wasn't done.
Webb completed a 12-play, 60-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to running back Toby Gerhart that made it 34-28.
Turnovers proved to be the Vikings' undoing and when Loadholt was beat by Avril and Ponder was stripped of the football that set the tone for the day.
• 31: Points the Lions scored in the first half Sunday, their most since scoring the same number on Nov. 17, 1985 in a 41-21 victory over the Vikings at the Pontiac Silverdome.
• 65: Joe Webb's third-quarter touchdown run, the longest run by a Vikings player this season. Adrian Peterson's longest run this season is 54 yards. Webb's run also is the longest by a Vikings quarterback in franchise history.
• 109: Rushing yards by Webb on Sunday. That broke Fran Tarkenton's single-game franchise record of 99 rushing yards on Nov. 5, 1961 at Los Angeles.
• 4: Consecutive seasons Peterson has rushed for more than 1,200 yards. He has 712 rushing yards in 2011 and has missed the past four games because of an ankle injury. The Vikings have three games remaining.
• 3: Sacks for Vikings defensive end Jared Allen in the first half Sunday, giving him 100.5 for his career and 17.5 for the season.
• 178: Career games played by Jim Kleinsasser, tying Steve Jordan (1982-94) for most games by a Vikings tight end. Kleinsasser entered the league as a second-round draft choice of the Vikings in 1999.
• 8-21: Vikings' record in the past two seasons.
• Peterson sat out a fourth consecutive game because of a high left ankle sprain that he had tested during the week.
• The Lions were without running back Kevin Smith, who also sat out because of an ankle injury.
• Cornerback Asher Allen returned for the Vikings after missing a game because of a shoulder injury.
• Ponder said he had some tightness in the hip during the game but said there wasn't much pain.
Odds and ends
• Griffin, who has struggled all year after having ACL surgery on each knee in the past two years, was benched after the Lions' second touchdown and replaced at the right corner by Benny Sapp.
• The Vikings inactive list included Peterson, cornerback Chris Cook, linebacker Xavier Adibi, offensive linemen Brandon Fusco and DeMarcus Love, tight end Allen Reisner and defensive end D'Aundre Reed.
Detroit: Stephen Tulloch recovers Christian Ponder fumble in end zone, 12:56. Jason Hanson kick. Lions 7, Vikings 0
Detroit: Titus Young 57-yard pass from Matthew Stafford, 9:45. Hanson kick. Drive: 3 plays, 53 yards, 1:43. Lions 14, Vikings 0
Detroit: Brandon Pettigrew 12-yard pass from Stafford, 5:54. Hanson kick. Drive: 4-34-1:52. Lions 21, Vikings 0
Detroit: Smith 30-yard interception return, 12:33. Hanson kick. Lions 28, Vikings 7
Vikings: Percy Harvin 6-yard pass from Ponder, 7:36. Longwell kick. Drive: 10-60-4:57. Lions 28, Vikings 14
Detroit: Hanson 30-yard field goal, 1:06. Drive: 4-4-1:15. Lions 31, Vikings 14
Vikings: Joe Webb 65-yard touchdown run, 4:21. Longwell kick. Drive: 9-88-3:41. Lions 31, Vikings 21
Detroit: Hanson 26-yard field goal, 12:17. Drive: 15-83-7:04. Lions 34, Vikings 21
Vikings: Toby Gerhart 2-yard pass from Webb, 7:54. Longwell kick. Drive: 12-60-4:23. Lions 34, Vikings 28
The Vikings will play host to the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints next Sunday.
The Vikings are 20-9 all-time against the Saints but have lost the past two, including the 2009 NFC title game in overtime at the Superdome. This will be the fourth season in a row the Vikings will face New Orleans.
The Vikings have dominated the Saints at home, holding a 12-2 record in games played at Met Stadium and the Metrodome. It's difficult to see the Vikings improving upon that mark, however, considering the state of their defense and how good Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been this season.
New Orleans beat Tennessee 22-17 on Sunday, improving to 10-3.