Brett Favre and another year of experience have turned Sidney Rice into Minnesota's newest star receiver.
Favre passed for a season-high 344 yards, 201 to Rice, and the Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 27-10 on Sunday.
The Lions (1-8) joined the Houston Oilers, from Nov. 21, 1982 through Nov. 4, 1984, as the only NFL teams to lose 31 games in a 33-game stretch, according to STATS. They've played tough this season several times, as the Vikings can attest, but after a slew of injuries in this game and more poor pass coverage they dropped their 12th straight at the Metrodome.
Adrian Peterson lost a fumble, one of three turnovers (one on downs) by the Vikings inside the Detroit 20, but he turned 18 carries into 133 yards and two touchdowns for Minnesota (8-1).
The Vikings overcame a season-most 13 penalties, totaling 91 yards, thanks mostly to the Favre-Rice combination that has become quite the threat for this offense. Rice, in his third year, has 786 yards this season.
The Lions were going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 48, trailing by seven late in the third quarter, but with the crowd roaring they called timeout to talk it over and then decided to punt.
Early in the fourth, Favre found Rice open for a 56-yard pass to set up a short touchdown toss to Jeff Dugan, essentially sealing the victory and moving the Vikings closer to clinching the NFC North.
The Vikings were fortunate they were facing the Lions, with all the errors they made in the first half.
Jim Kleinsasser's false start penalty on second-and-2 at the 3 pushed them back on the opening possession, and they had to kick a short field goal. Brian Robison jumped offside on a punt, extending the drive for Detroit.
On first down at the Lions 17, Peterson's pitch to Percy Harvin on a reverse play that was probably too cute for the situation was bobbled by the rookie and recovered by Detroit.
Shortly after one of three 43-yard gains by Minnesota in the second quarter alone, an underthrown heave by Favre to a wide-open Rice, Dugan was smashed at the line on a quick handoff on fourth-and-1 at the 8.
Then, after shedding four tackles near the line, Peterson found open field closed in on the goal line before Philip Buchanon caught him, punched the ball out and dragged him down with a muscular move. The Lions recovered in the end zone.
Matthew Stafford has had a rough rookie season, learning on the go with this team still dogged by glaring weaknesses a year after becoming the first 0-16 squad in NFL history.
This was one of his best games, though, just his second this season without an interception even while facing a fierce Vikings pass rush. Stafford finished 29 for 51 for 224 yards.
Kevin Smith's fumble _ forced and recovered by Ray Edwards, who was all over the field _ on the first play of the third quarter set up Peterson for a 27-yard run and a 1-yard score to stretch the lead to 17-3. But the first overall pick in the draft led an 84-yard touchdown drive right after that, pulling Detroit back within one score. Stafford went 6 for 9 for 50 yards on that possession.
The Vikings argued he shouldn't have gotten that far. Edwards hurdled a cut block and used a Superman-style leap to take down Stafford and force an incompletion on third down at the 13, but he was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Minnesota entered the game with the fifth fewest penalties in the league.