The elements were all there for a Minnesota upset. The Vikings were on the road against a hot rookie quarterback and a pumped-up Detroit team.
But Randall Cunningham wouldn't let it happen.
Cunningham threw two touchdown passes and the Vikings reeled off 17 consecutive points in the third quarter to remain undefeated with a 34-13 victory over the Lions on Sunday.
"They went up three points at halftime," Cunningham said. "We never panic when we're down. We believe we can put points on the board at any time. That's the type of team we have."
Robert Smith had 134 yards on 19 carries, including a 57-yard touchdown run to ice it for the Vikings (7-0), who defeated Detroit (2-5) for the second time.
Detroit rookie Charlie Batch, who made his NFL debut at Minnesota in the third game of the season, didn't play poorly. He was 20-of-37 for 231 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Morton, with one interception. But he couldn't overcome a performance that saw the Lions penalized 14 times for 169 yards.
"That cannot happen, and I have the responsibility to not let that happen," Detroit coach Bobby Ross said. "That is far too much. To me, that is the story to this game."
Cunningham Batch's boyhood hero during his early NFL years with the Philadelphia Eagles, was 17-of-30 for 190 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jake Reed and a 10-yard scoring toss to Cris Carter.
He said coach Dennis Green scolded the team at halftime.
"Denny Green said a few things on his heart to get us fired up," Cunningham said. "He motivated us. Denny Green is going to be a preacher some day. He's a great speaker. He's a motivator."
Cunningham, starting his fifth game since Brad Johnson went down with a
| Jake Reed gets wrapped up on this play, but the Vikings' receiver also caught a short TD pass as Minnesota moved to 7-0. (AP) |
Still, his interceptions were harmless. Jimmy Hitchcock took Batch's interception 79 yards for the game's final score late in the fourth quarter.
"I'm frustrated with myself," Batch said. "I didn't play the type of ball needed to win this game. I have receivers open, but I just didn't put the ball where they could catch it."
Gary Anderson kicked field goals of 35 and 44 yards for the Vikings.
"We just made all those errors out there," Sanders said. "God, you don't see those in junior high, or Pop Warner."
Neither team was happy with the work of referee Tony Corrente and his crew. Ross, who seldom shows much animation on the sideline, went into a rage after a pass interference call against Bryant Westbrook that jump-started the drive to Minnesota's first touchdown, the toss to Reed early in the second quarter.
With the Lions on the Minnesota 30, time appeared to have expired as Batch spiked the ball at the end of the second quarter. But the referee ordered one second put back on the clock, and Hanson kicked a field goal to send the Lions off with a 13-10 halftime lead.
That upset Green, who headed straight to midfield and walked all the way to the tunnel with Corrente.
It was all Vikings i the second half, but the penalty flags continued to fly.
Anderson tied it 13-all midway through the third quarter.
On their next possession, a 59-yard pass interference call against Westbrook was the key play in a five-play drive for the go-ahead score -- Cunningham's pass to Carter, who made a nice catch between Kevin Abrams and Ron Rice in the back of the end zone.
A personal foul call against Robert Porcher gave the Vikings a first down on their next possession. Smith broke free on his touchdown run on the next play for a 27-13 lead with 1:54 left in the third.
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