MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnesota Vikings’ offense couldn’t rally for a touchdown, so the defense did it for them. Twice.

Detroit squandered a 17-3 lead in the fourth quarter and the Vikings defense scored two touchdowns on turnovers by Jon Kitna in the final period for a 26-17 victory Sunday.

Ben Leber returned Kitna’s fumble 1 yard for a touchdown to cut Detroit’s lead to 17-16 and Ryan Longwell made a 20-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 19-17 lead with 3 minutes to play.

Kitna, trying to bring Detroit back, was flushed out of the pocket and corralled by Ray Edwards before desperately throwing the ball in a receiver’s direction. The pass landed right in E.J. Henderson’s hands, and the linebacker raced 45 yards to seal the win.

It was a stunning, but not surprising, turnaround that kept the Lions (0-5) winless and continued their misery against the Vikings. They have lost nine straight to Minnesota, dating back to 2001.

Detroit hired coach Rod Marinelli and jettisoned first-round bust Joey Harrington for the steady veteran Kitna in the offseason, hoping the changes would finally turn around a team that has the worst record in the NFL (21-64) since 2001. But the Lions just keep finding ways to give away games, and this one was ripe for the taking.

In a first half filled with penalties, dropped passes and turnovers, the Lions took a 10-3 lead on the strength of Kitna’s 8-yard TD run.

Minnesota’s second turnover of the game, a fumble by Travis Taylor close to midfield, set up Kitna’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Dan Campbell that gave the Lions a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

With the Lions defense dominating a struggling Vikings offense, the game looked well in hand.

Coming into the game, the Vikings (3-2) had scored just three offensive touchdowns all season, and they didn’t look much better against the Lions.

Brad Johnson completed his first eight passes of the game, but most were dinks and dunks in the West Coast offense that got the Vikings nowhere. He was booed heavily through the first three quarters and looked every bit his 38 years of age while one-hopping passes to open receivers.

As they have all season, the Vikings leaned heavily on running back Chester Taylor and a stingy defense to keep things close.

Taylor rushed for 123 yards in another workhorse effort and the Vikings’ defense sacked Kitna five times, intercepted him three others and also forced the fumble that got things going in the fourth. The Vikings finally got in the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter after a 68-yard drive that was aided by a roughing-the-passer call on Shaun Rogers.

Johnson, 26-of-34 for 201 yards, hit Travis Taylor on a 3-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 17-10.

After a block-in-the-back penalty on Donte Curry nullified Eddie Drummond’s kick return for a touchdown, the Lions put the Vikings right back in the game. On second-and-6 from the Detroit 14, Pat Williams burst through the line untouched and engulfed Kitna, forcing a fumble that Leber scooped up at the goal line for a touchdown.

Jared DeVries blocked Ryan Longwell’s extra point to hold the Lions’ lead at 17-16, but it was all downhill from there for Detroit.

AP-ES-10-08-06 1745EDT


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