Special-teams scores lead Vikings past rival Lions
Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - The Minnesota Vikings got a kickoff return and punt return for touchdowns as the team snapped a long winless skid in NFC North play with a 20-13 win over Detroit at Ford Field.
Percy Harvin scored on the opening kickoff and Marcus Sherels returned the first punt of the second half for a touchdown as the Vikings (3-1) snapped an 11-game losing streak in the division. The last win in the NFC North for the team was a home victory against Detroit on Sept. 26, 2010.
Adrian Peterson had 21 carries for 102 yards and added four catches for 20 yards while Christian Ponder went 16-for-26 with 111 yards for the Vikings, who have matched their win total from last season.
"It doesn't get a whole lot better than this," said Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier. "To come here on the road and get a win against a divisional opponent is huge. Our guys never blinked and kept making plays when we needed them to make plays."
Special teams again let Detroit down, as for the second straight week the team let up punt and kickoff returns for scores. Last week saw Tennessee turn the trick in a 44-41 overtime win for the Titans.
Matthew Stafford passed for 319 yards on 30-of-51 attempts and scored the lone touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run for the Lions (1-3), who have dropped three straight after winning their opener against St. Louis.
"We're 1-3 right now because we deserve to be 1-3," said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. "When you give up five return touchdowns in two weeks, you're going to lose those games. We dropped touchdown passes, we fumbled in their territory. You want to know why we're 1-3, that's why."
The game didn't stay scoreless for long as Harvin took the opening kickoff up the middle, kicked it out to the right and ran down the sideline for a Minnesota touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Detroit answered quickly thanks to a penalty. On the first play, Minnesota jumped offsides and Stafford went deep for Calvin Johnson, leading to a pass interference call and Detroit with the ball at the Minnesota 24. The drive stalled, and a 40-yard field goal from Jason Hanson made it a 7-3 game less than two minutes in.
Following an exchange of punts, Minnesota was pinned back at their 9, but a defensive neutral zone infraction followed by runs of four and seven yards by Petersen got the team a first down. Two plays later, a pass interference call on Detroit gave Minnesota the ball at the Lions' 37. That led to a 49-yard field goal by Blair Walsh for a 10-3 lead with 1:16 left in the first.
Another pass interference call on Bill Bentley, who was flagged for the first one, led to another Minnesota field goal as Walsh connected from 27 yards for a 13-3 lead with 8:14 left in the first half.
Detroit answered with a field goal of its own as a 14-play, 67-yard march was capped on a 31-yard field goal from Hanson with 1:46 left in the half and it was a 13-6 game at the break. Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew each missed passes in the back of the end zone prior to the field goal.
Special teams again factored big as Detroit was forced to punt on the opening possession of the second half.
Fielding a punt at his own 23, Sherels shrugged off a Lion who hit him moments after getting the ball. Sherels then broke several more tackles before getting down the left sideline and running into the end zone for a 20-6 lead.
Later in the frame, Detroit was driving and got into Minnesota territory, but Mikel Leshoure fumbled the ball on a run and the Vikings recovered.
However, they were unable to take advantage of the turnover as Walsh missed a 46-yard field goal to the left, his first career miss.
Detroit drove and got the ball down to the Minnesota 7 on the following possession, but Stafford was sacked by Everson Griffen on fourth down to give the Vikings the ball back.
The Vikings had to punt and Detroit started at its own 25. On the 11th play of the drive, Stafford leaped over the pack and stretched the ball over the goal line for a 20-13 game with 2:56 to play.
Detroit held Minnesota and got the ball back with 1:42 to play, but at its own 2. Stafford got his team near midfield before he was sacked on the final play of the game while trying to set up a Hail Mary, which had worked in last week's game against Tennessee.
Detroit has allowed six returns for touchdowns this season ... The last punt return for a touchdown for Minnesota was on December 14, 2008 by Bernard Berrian against Arizona ... The Vikings host Tennessee next Sunday ... Detroit has off next week before a road game in Philadelphia ... Detroit totaled 341 yards of offense, compared to just 227 for Minnesota ... Minnesota snapped a three-game losing streak to Detroit ... Johnson had five catches for 54 yards while Pettigrew finished the game with seven catches for 67 yards.
09/30 18:20:06 ET