MINNEAPOLIS — A questionable pass interference penalty on Leigh Bodden put Minnesota’s woeful offense in position for a 26-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell with 9 seconds to go that lifted the Vikings to a 12-10 victory Sunday, keeping the Lions winless on the season.
Detroit (0-5) seemed to outplay the Vikings for the entire game in a spirited effort, but the Vikings (3-3) got a boost from a call by field judge Mike Weir.
Trailing 10-9 in the final 3 minutes, the Vikings had a second-and-20 from their 32. Gus Frerotte threw deep down the sideline for Aundrae Allison, and the ball fell incomplete. But Weir whistled cornerback Leigh Bodden for pass interference despite what appeared to be minimal contact.
Bodden was livid over the call, but the 42-yard penalty gave the Vikings the ball at the Detroit 26. Longwell converted the kick five plays later to avoid what would have been a damaging loss for a team that has designs on making the playoffs.
Frerotte finished with 296 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but the Vikings were so bad offensively against one of the worst teams in the league that thousands chanted “Fire Childress!” throughout the second half.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 111 yards, but lost two fumbles. Bernard Berrian had five catches for 131 yards, including an 86-yard touchdown that cut Detroit’s lead to 10-9 in the third quarter.
Making the first start of his career, Dan Orlovsky threw for 150 yards and a touchdown for Detroit, which lost for the 11th time in a row in the Metrodome. His blunder in the first quarter when he ran out of bounds in the end zone for a safety ultimately cost the Lions what would have been a well-deserved victory.
Calvin Johnson had four catches for 85 yards, and he leaped into the end zone for a 12-yard TD that put the Lions up 10-2 in the third quarter.
Frerotte came back with the big play to Berrian, and the Vikings defense took advantage of another debatable officiating decision to keep the Lions off the board the rest of the way.
Orlovsky threw a pretty pass down the seam to Johnson for a 32-yard gain, but Darren Sharper and Ben Leber crunched the receiver at the end of it and the ball came loose. Leber scooped up the ball and Detroit coach Rod Marinelli challenged the play.
Replays appeared to show Johnson hitting the ground before the ball came out, but referee Tony Corrente upheld the ruling. So instead of the Lions having the ball deep in Vikings territory with a chance to pad their lead, the Vikings were awarded possession.
It’s been that kind of season — that kind of existence, really — for one of the most hapless franchises in professional sports.
The Lions haven’t won a game since last December, and up until Sunday, hadn’t been competitive in four previous losses that finally led to team president Matt Millen’s dismissal in September.