Third time not the charm
By Jon Krawczynski
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Staring at a 20-0 deficit as they trudged into the Metrodome locker room at halftime, the old Detroit Lions would have started making plans to leave Minnesota with another loss.
In this young season, it is becoming abundantly clear that these are not the same old Lions.
Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes in the second half to help Detroit get to overtime, and Jason Hanson kicked a 32-yard field goal to finish off a 26-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Calvin Johnson had seven catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions, who are 3-0 for the first time since 1980. They won in the Metrodome for the first time since 1997, snapping a 13-game skid.
"This is my best win ever," said Lions center Dominic Raiola, who was 0 for 10 in the Metrodome before Sunday. "We're talking about a place we've never won, since 1997."
Adrian Peterson rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, but only 5 of those yards came in the second half as the Vikings (0-3) gave away a double-digit halftime lead for the third week in a row.
"It's tough," Peterson said. "I feel sick right now."
Stafford completed 32 of 46 passes for 378 yards, and he saved his best throw of the day for his last.
With blitzing Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway right in Stafford's grill, the young quarterback heaved a pass off his back foot in Johnson's direction. The 6-foot-5 Johnson made a brilliant 40-yard catch with Cedric Griffin all over him, and Hanson calmly drilled the field goal for the winning score.
"Nothing needed to be said. I think we knew we were going to go down there and score -- that's the way every good offense is," Stafford said of the final drive. "We didn't blink at all. We just went down there and put some points on the board."
There was a little confusion after the kick, with officials blowing their whistles and holding off the celebration. But this was a long time coming for the Lions, and coach Jim Schwartz could be heard over the referee's microphone yelling "Learn the (expletive) rules!" as he jogged toward his handshake with the Vikings' Leslie Frazier.
"It was as tough as a win ... as I've been a part of," Schwartz said. "We had to overcome a lot of adversity. It's tough to be down 20 at the half."
Stafford looked completely lost against the Vikings' aggressive array of zone blitzes in the first half, throwing for just 64 yards. He was a different quarterback in the second half, calmly dissecting the Vikings defense and keeping the Lions confident.
"The dude, for missing two seasons (with injuries), he's so calm and collected and that whole attitude goes over the whole huddle," Johnson said. "He's our coach on the field. He's a great leader for us and he makes big plays."
Brandon Pettigrew had 11 catches for 112 yards for the Lions, who were favored in Minnesota for the first time since 1981.
Jared Allen had three sacks, Brian Robison added two and Donovan McNabb threw for 211 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings.
For the third week in a row, the Vikings came out of the gates flying. Peterson had a 6-yard touchdown run, and the defense sacked Stafford, who had hardly been touched in the first two weeks, three times in the first half.
The Lions had minus-7 yards of offense in the first quarter, and Marcus Sherels' 53-yard punt return set up McNabb's 8-yard TD to Visanthe Shiancoe for a 20-0 lead right before the break.
Just as they had done with a 17-7 lead over the Chargers in Week 1 and a 17-0 lead over the Bucs in Week 2, the Vikings gave it all away.
Stafford hit Johnson for a 32-yard TD, and Hanson's 27-yard field goal cut the lead in half at 20-10.
Jahvid Best's 60-yard screen pass gave the Lions a first-and-goal at the 5 as the third quarter came to an end, one that saw the Lions outgain the Vikings 190-6.
Stafford's 5-yard TD to Johnson made it 20-17 early in the fourth quarter, and Frazier decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17 rather than kick a field goal. Toby Gerhart was stuffed by DeAndre Levy.
"We thought we had a good play, a play we were confident we could get inches on, and they did a good job of stopping it," Frazier said
Stafford drove the Lions right back down the field, and Hanson's 50-yard field goal tied the game with 5:20 to play.
Hanson, the only player on the team who had a victory as a Lion in the Metrodome, kicked four field goals.
"Whatever happens out there," an emboldened Raiola said, "we have whatever we need in this locker room to come back from it."
NOTES: It's the first time in Johnson's career he's had at least two touchdowns receiving in three straight games. He's only the second player in team history to do that. ... The Vikings are 1 for 15 on third downs in the second half this year while their opponents are 13 for 22. ... Michael Jenkins had nine catches for 88 yards for the Vikings. ... Frazier said McNabb hurt his right wrist on a sack in the fourth quarter.