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Johnson, Vikings defense spearhead late comeback vs. Lions

Oct 8, 2006 - 8:16 PM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The Minnesota Vikings woke up just in time to continue their success against the lowly Detroit Lions.

Brad Johnson threw for 201 yards and a touchdown and the Vikings erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter en route to a 26-17 triumph over the Lions.

It was Minnesota's ninth consecutive victory against Detroit, which entered the final quarter with a 17-3 advantage only to surrender 23 unanswered points.

"I'd like to be ahead by 40 in the fourth quarter so we could breathe and watch," Vikings first-year coach Brad Childress said. "But I really believe these close games have a chance to serve us as we head down the road."

Johnson found Travis Taylor for a three-yard TD to draw the Vikings within 17-10 just 46 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Lions helped out their NFC North Division rival three plays later, when Jon Kitna was sacked by defensive tackle Pat Williams and fumbled.

"They tried to set a screen right in front of me and I just played it quick," Williams said. "They did not have any communication on their offensive line."

Linebacker Ben Leber recovered the ball in Detroit's end zone, and Minnesota was in business. However, the Lions blocked Ryan Longwell's extra-point attempt and still clung to a 17-16 lead.

"They called a front-side blitz," Leber said. "I was coming off the edge, and big Pat got great penetration and knocked the ball out. I was there and fortunate for me, the ball bounced right into my hands."

"That changed the whole outcome of the game with that one play," Taylor added. "The momentum swung to us, and we rode it out."

The teams each exchanged a pair of series before the Vikings gained possession at their own 37 with 8:07 remaining. Johnson took control from there, engineering a nine-play, 61-yard drive capped by Longwell's 20-yard field goal, which gave Minnesota a 19-17 edge with 3:03 left.

The Vikings stamped their victory on the following defensive series, when linebacker E.J. Henderson intercepted Kitna on fourth down and reeled off a 45-yard TD return to push the lead to 26-17.

"We talked before the game about finishing every play," Leber said. "Especially the fourth quarter, that was something we wanted to do and I think we did that today."

"We've got to do a better job in the fourth quarter," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "We've got to hold the lead and protect the football."

Johnson completed 26-of-34 attempts while Chester Taylor ran for 123 yards on 26 carries for Minnesota (3-2), which forced four turnovers.

"We stuck together as a team," Chester Taylor said. "The defense helped us out. We need to do that - stick together as a team."

Kitna completed 23-of-42 passes for 225 yards, a TD and three interceptions for Detroit (0-5), which has not won here since 1997.

"They did a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback all year," said Kitna, who was sacked five times. "We have to find a way to win and find a way to break free from this mess that we are under right now."

Lions star wide receiver Roy Williams suffered a stinger in his back and left the game just three plays into the first quarter. Center Damien Woody also left the game on Detroit's opening possession with a leg injury.

"We took a big hit on the offensive line," said Detroit wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim, who had eight catches for 92 yards. "We can still keep things moving, but it is hard to protect when we lose our big dogs."