The old Detroit Lions would have wilted after falling behind 20-0 at halftime. These are not the same old Lions.
Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes in the second half to rally Detroit from the big halftime deficit, and Jason Hanson kicked a 32-yard field goal in overtime for a 26-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Calvin Johnson had seven catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions, who are 3-0 for the first time since 1980. They won in the Metrodome for the first time since 1997, snapping a 13-game skid.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, but only 5 of those yards came in the second half as the Vikings (0-3) gave away a large halftime lead for the third week in a row.
Stafford completed 32 of 46 passes for 378 yards, and he saved his best throw of the day for his last.
With blitzing Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway right in Stafford's grill, the young quarterback heaved a pass off his back foot in Johnson's direction. The 6-foot-5 Johnson made a brilliant 40-yard catch with Cedric Griffin all over him, and Hanson calmly drilled the field goal for the winning score.
There was a little confusion after the kick, with officials blowing their whistles and holding off the celebration. But this was a long time coming for the Lions, and coach Jim Schwartz could be heard over the referee's microphone yelling "Learn the (expletive) rules!" as he jogged toward his handshake with the Vikings' Leslie Frazier.
Stafford looked completely lost against the Vikings' aggressive array of zone blitzes in the first half, throwing for just 64 yards.
He was a different quarterback in the second half, certainly closer to the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 who led the Lions so capably in the first two weeks. He calmly dissected the Vikings defense, completing 14 of 23 passes for 257 yards, with much of his damage done to Brandon Pettigrew over the middle.
Pettigrew had 11 catches for 112 yards for the Lions, who were favored in Minnesota for the first time since 1981.
Jared Allen had three sacks, Brian Robison added two and Donovan McNabb threw for 211 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings.
For the third week in a row, the Vikings came out of the gates flying. Peterson had a 6-yard touchdown run, and the defense sacked Stafford, who had hardly been touched in the first two weeks, three times in the first half.
The Lions had minus-7 yards of offense in the first quarter, and Marcus Sherels' 53-yard punt return set up McNabb's 8-yard TD to Visanthe Shiancoe for a 20-0 lead.
Despite coming into the game 0-2, domination like that was nothing new for the Vikings, who have outscored their opponents 54-7 in the first half of the first three games. They led San Diego 17-7 at the break in the opener and were up 17-0 on the Buccaneers last week.
Stafford hit Johnson for a 32-yard TD, and Hanson's 27-yard field goal cut the lead in half at 20-10.
Jahvid Best's 60-yard screen pass gave the Lions a first-and-goal at the 5 as the quarter came to an end, one that saw the Lions outgain the Vikings 190-6.
Stafford's 5-yard TD to Johnson made it 20-17 early in the fourth quarter, and Frazier decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17 rather than kick a field goal. Toby Gerhart was stuffed by DeAndre Levy.
Stafford drove the Lions right back down the field, and Hanson's 50-yard field goal tied the game with 5:20 to play.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)