MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Daunte Culpepper ran for two touchdowns, including a 33-yarder, and threw a 47-yard scoring pass to Cris Carter Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings opened a 25-point lead and held on for a 31-26 victory over the Detroit Lions.
"We played very well in the first half and not nearly as well in the second half," Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "Like most NFC Central Division games, it could have gone either way."
After scoring just one offensive touchdown in their first 14 quarters of the season, the Lions got three-second half touchdown passes from Charlie Batch. He completed 31 of 41 passes for a career-high 345 yards and nearly pulled out the victory.
In the final seconds, Batch hit Germane Crowell with a 26-yard pass to the Minnesota 20, but Crowell tried to gain more yards instead of stopping the clock and time expired on the Lions, who are 0-4 for the first time since losing their first five games in 1989.
"I felt like I let my team down," said Crowell, who finished with nine catches for 125 yards. "Maybe we would have scored, maybe we would not have. I kind of blew the opportunity. I knew how much time was left but in that situation I have to get out of bounds. I have to be a smart player."
"We must play smart," rookie Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg said. "We played with a huge amount of intensity, character, toughness, all those things but it doesn't even matter."
Culpepper scored on a seven-yard run in the first quarter and broke off a 33-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left in the second period, staking the Vikings to a 24-6 halftime advantage.
Culpepper completed 20 of 27 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown with an interception and rushed for 83 yards on seven carries.
Carter made a lunging catch down the right sideline for his 47-yard touchdown with 10:25 left in the third quarter.
Carter finished with eight receptions for 111 yards, his first 100-yard game of the season. Randy Moss had six receptions for 78 yards for the Vikings (2-3), who have won four straight and six of the last seven meetings from the Lions.
Batch hit fullback James Stewart with a 15-yard touchdown with 5:40 left in the third quarter. He connected with Crowell on a 16-yard score 40 seconds into the fourth quarter and threw a 20-yard touchdown to Johnnie Morton with 6:18 remaining.
"You could see the momentum shifting at the end," Batch said. "It was a tough hole to come out of, but it shows what kind of character we have on this team."
Mornhinweg benched Batch in favor of Ty Detmer after a season-opening 28-6 loss at Green Bay. But Detmer was intercepted seven times in Detroit's second game and threw a key interception in last Monday's loss to St. Louis.
Mornhinweg switched back to Batch as his starter for Sunday's game, but did not elaborate on his quarterback's performance.
"Charlie played pretty well. Next question," Mornhinweg said.
Stewart rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries for the Lions. Detroit recorded six sacks, two each by defensive end Robert Porcher, rookie defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and linebacker Chris Claiborne.
Minnesota sacked Batch four times, including 2 1/2 by defensive tackle Chris Hovan.
"We just didn't move the ball and we didn't match their intensity (in the second half)," Culpepper said. "They played a really good second half. We just have to do a better job playing four quarters."
The Vikings opened the game with a 10-play, 80-yard drive which lasted 6 1/2 minutes. Culpepper hit Moss with an 18-yard pass and rookie Michael Bennett, the team's first-round pick, broke off a 23-yard run before Culpepper scored on a seven-yard run.
Jason Hanson kicked a 19-yard field goal after Stewart was stuffed at the one on third and goal to pull the Lions within 7-3 with 3:59 left in the quarter.
The Vikings responded with a nine-play, 55-yard drive which Culpepper highlighted with a 22-yard run. Travis Prentice capped it with a one-yard touchdown run 14 seconds into the second quarter.
Hovan recovered a fumble by Batch at the Detroit 32 to set up a 41-yard field goal by Gary Anderson, increasing the lead to 17-3.
Hanson kicked a 51-yard field goal for Detroit midway through the second quarter. But Culpepper scored on his 33-yard run with 25 seconds left in the half.