Minnesota 38, Detroit 36

Dec. 29, 2002 at 8:20 PM
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DETROIT, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Daunte Culpepper threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings held on for a 38-36 victory over Detroit, the Lions eighth straight loss.

With the jobs of both Detroit Coach Marty Mornhinweg and team president Matt Millen possibly on the line, the Lions fell short again. Mornhinweg's record fell to 5-27 over two years, including losses in his first 12 games last season.

"I'm not going to talk about that," Mornhinweg said. "I support Mr. Ford's (Lions owner William Clay Ford) plans for this organization and I'll leave it at that. The staff and I will continue to coach these guys to play at their highest level."

The duo took over after the Lions just missed qualifying for the playoffs under interim coach Gary Moeller with a home loss to the Chicago Bears in the 2000 season finale. The 5-27 stretch is the worst two-year run in franchise history.

"This team is primed to make a run," Mornhinweg added. "We're a handful of players away. What we need are playmakers -- at least two on defense and two on offense. We need guys on defense who'll stop those third-and-long plays and guys on offense with the speed to take it to the house."

While Mornhinweg and Millen are unsure of their status, Mike Tice will return as coach of the Vikings and ended the year with a three-game winning streak. Minnesota finished 6-10, one more win than last season.

"Being able to finish with one more win than last year gives you something that you can reach out and touch," Tice said. "We're probably a little bit better than our record. I believe we could have been an 8-8 team."

An 18-yard field goal by Gary Anderson gave Minnesota a 38-30 lead with 69 seconds left. The Lions took over at their own 39-yard line and made things interesting.

Mike McMahon's 20-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Anderson with 13 seconds to go pulled Detroit within two points. But McMahon's pass on the two-point try was incomplete and the Vikings recovered an onside kick.

"I wanted to make sure that if they had to go that distance that they would have to go for the ultimate which was a touchdown and a two-point conversion," Tice said. "They weren't able to get it done. Again, we were able to make just enough plays. That field goal was a big field goal."

Culpepper completed 21 of 29 passes for 312 yards. He finished the year with 18 touchdown passes.

"We stuck together," Culpepper said. "A lot of teams fall apart. You hear about a lot of guys fighting and suing each other. Coach Tice did a pretty good job of keeping us together."

McMahon threw for a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, but was also intercepted by Vikings safety Corey Chavous, who returned it 43 yards for a score. Culpepper added a two-yard touchdown run as the game was tied at 14-14 after one quarter.

Michael Bennett ran for a two-yard score and Culpepper hit Kelly Campbell for a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter as Minnesota took a 28-17 lead into halftime. Bennett rushed 19 times for 82 yards.

The Vikings were poised to increase a 35-24 lead in the fourth quarter when Anderson set up for a 43-yard field goal. The kick was blocked, however, and Lions cornerback Todd Lyght returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.

It was Detroit's first blocked field goal return for a score since Melvin Jenkins did it against the Vikings 10 years ago.

Lions running back James Stewart had just 25 yards on 11 carries but still went over the 1,000-yard plateau for the second time in his career.

"As a running back, you want to rush for 1,000 yards," Stewart said. "I'm pleased with that, but I'm disappointed in the season."

Randy Moss had six receptions for 109 yards and Campbell added four catches for 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"I watched him in college," Culpepper said about Campbell. "He's a great player, a great athlete. He has the knack to make the big plays. As long as he stays healthy, that will stay with him throughout his career."

McMahon made his second straight start in place of rookie Joey Harrington and completed 19 of 44 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Bill Schroeder caught six passes for 132 yards and a score.

Veteran Lions defensive end Robert Porcher scored the first touchdown of his 11-year career when he recovered a fumble by Culpepper in the end zone early in the second half.

Minnesota swept the two meetings with its NFC North rival. The Vikings posted a 31-24 victory in the first matchup at the Metrodome on Oct. 13.

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