(Sunday, December 11th)
Final Score: Detroit 34, Minnesota 28
Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - Stephen Tulloch recovered a fumble in the end zone two minutes into the game, Alphonso Smith returned an interception for a score in the second quarter, and a defensive stop in the final moments kept the Lions in the thick of the playoff race.
With the Vikings at the one-yard line with nine seconds to play, defensive end Cliff Avril pressured quarterback Joe Webb and forced a fumble that secured the Lions' 34-28 victory.
Avril had committed an offside penalty on the previous play, but his sack ensured that Detroit improved to 8-5 and snapped a two-game slide. The Lions entered the week tied with Chicago and Atlanta for the NFC's two wild card spots.
The Falcons beat Carolina to move to 8-5, while the Bears lost to Denver in overtime later Sunday to fall to 7-6.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for two touchdowns in the first quarter, and finished with 227 yards on 20-of-29 passing.
"It was a tough one," Stafford said. "We had to battle on both sides of the ball. That's a good football team. That's one of the better 2-11 teams you're going to play."
Webb threw for 84 yards and a touchdown after replacing Vikings starter Christian Ponder, who threw for 115 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times and lost a fumble. He started despite suffering a hip pointer during last week's loss to Denver.
"Just thought he would be able to protect himself and be able to make the throws he needed to make," said Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. "Did a good job at times. You could see that the timing was off a little bit. Made the decision after that last interception that this wasn't the Christian we're accustomed to seeing."
Minnesota (2-11) had six turnovers and lost its fifth consecutive game. Running back Adrian Peterson did not play for a third straight contest because of a high ankle sprain.
Early on it looked like the Lions would win in a rout, scoring three times in the first 10 minutes of the game thanks to turnovers.
On the opening play of the Vikings' first drive, Avril sacked Ponder and forced a fumble that Tulloch recovered in the end zone.
Three plays into Minnesota's next touch, Ponder was picked off by Smith near midfield. Detroit was initially unsuccessful and faced a 3rd-and-14, but Stafford hit Titus Young down the left sideline for a 57-yard score.
After a three-and-out by the Vikings, Stefan Logan returned the punt 28 yards to the Minnesota 34. Again, the Lions' offense didn't make much progress and faced a 3rd-and-10.
But Stafford connected with Brandon Pettigrew for 17 yards, and went to the tight end again for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
The three scores made it a 21-0 game with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
Ponder continued to hurt Minnesota with turnovers. While he found Visanthe Shiancoe for a seven-yard TD late in the first quarter, he was picked off by Smith early in the second. Smith quickly leaped inside his receiver's route to grab the ball and sprinted 30 yards into the end zone.
Minnesota picked up another TD midway through the second quarter, when Ponder hit Percy Harvin with a six-yard pass, but Jason Hanson's 30-yard field goal gave the Lions a 31-14 advantage at the break.
But after Ponder was picked off again not even two minutes into the third quarter, Webb took over at quarterback. He capped his first drive with a 65- yard touchdown run, which brought the Vikings within 10 points.
The Lions followed with a 26-yarder by Hanson, ending an 83-yard drive that lasted more than seven minutes and stretched into the fourth quarter.
That left the door open for Minnesota to close within a touchdown. Webb's two- yard scoring pass to Toby Gerhart ended a 12-play drive, and had Minnesota within six with 7:54 to play.
The Vikings forced the Lions to punt and took over at their own 20 with 3:32 still on the clock. Their long drive included two fourth-down conversions, the second of which was a 10-yard run by Webb that put the ball at the two.
Avril was then called for being offsides, but his pressure on the final play secured the victory. Webb's facemask was grabbed as he scrambled away from the pressure, but a penalty was never called and the clock ran out.
Webb, a second-year QB, was appearing in his eighth game this season. However, he attempted only two passes in his first seven contests. He finished 12-of-23 Sunday, while running for 109 yards...Gerhart had 90 yards on 19 carries...Lions running back Kevin Smith missed the game with a sprained ankle. Keiland Williams led Detroit with 43 rushing yards.
12/11 19:49:53 ET
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