The Vikings and Lions may have both begun the day atop the NFC North, but by the end of Sunday’s game neither team would look like a legitimate contender for anything, except maybe the NFL’s ugliest squad. A game rife with turnovers, penalties and injuries finally, mercifully ended with 9:12 left in overtime, when Jason Hanson booted a 37-yard field goal to give the home-standing Lions a sloppy 20-17 victory.

The game had a chance to end in regulation – in fact it had two chances. Hanson, one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history, missed a 48 yarder wide left with 5o seconds to go. The Vikings then had their opportunity – they took the ball into Detroit territory, and were able to clock it with seven seconds left. Ryan Longwell, another of NFL history’s better kickers, promptly dented the left upright from 52 yards, sending the game stumbling into overtime.

The sight of two grade-A kickers both missing a game-winning field goal inside of a minute would normally qualify as stunning, but after the display of futility and bungling put on before them, their failures seemed merely par for the course. It was a game marred by mistakes – 19 total penalties and 10 total turnovers. The Vikings were guilty of 12 of those penalties – the worst probably being a Kevin Williams off-sides call on a 4th down, which ultimately allowed Detroit to kick a field goal and take a 10-7 lead into the half.

As sloppy as the Vikings were, however, they were largely able to cover their mistakes by making spectacular defensive plays at key times. A pick by Darren Sharper ended a potential Detroit scoring drive in the 1st. The next drive was stalled when Jon Kitna stumbled trying to roll out and was sacked by Kenechi Udeze. The first Detroit series of the second half was killed by Darren Sharper’s second pick – then later, with the game tied 10-10, the Vikes pulled off their defensive highlight: Kevin Williams sliced through the Detroit line with lightning speed and forced back-up QB J.T. O’Sullivan, in for an injured Kitna, to cough up the ball. Ray Edwards then scooped up the loose rock and rumbled into the end-zone for the TD. The game was tied at 17-17 at that point – and that was where the two teams would still be after nearly two more quarters of trading turnovers and drives sabotaged by penalties and other gaffes.

Detroit, a team well-known for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, had reason to believe it would once again not be their day – especially after a 2nd quarter injury to QB Jon Kitna, who appeared to hurt his back while being hit from behind by Ray Edwards during a play that would ultimately set up a 9-yard TD strike to Roy Williams. Kitna did stay in the game long enough to deliver the TD to Williams, threading a ball beautifully between two defenders – but was replaced by former Viking J.T. O’Sullivan for the next series. The loss of Kitna slowed down what had up till then been an effective Detroit passing attack. Neither offense would do much of anything until the 4th quarter, when Kitna, who may have suffered a concussion to go with his apparent back injury, talked coach Rod Marinelli into letting him back in the game. Kitna, by passing and scrambling, was able to lead the Lions into field goal range – only to have Hanson miss the potential game-winner as described earlier.

The Lions’ offense, with Kitna in, looked at times like the high-flying squad it was advertised to be. Kitna finished with 245 yards on 23/33 passing with 1 TD and a pick. Even O’Sullivan, despite not being nearly as crisp as Kitna, was able to pass for 148 yards on 23 attempts, capping his performance with a TD lob to Calvin Johnson (whose size and strength were too much for CB Cedric Griffin). O’Sullivan’s downfall was turnovers – the pick to Sharper at the start of the second half and a later one to Dwight Smith, and a pair of fumbles including the one Ray Edwards ran in for a score. O’Sullivan was certainly not alone in his inability to hold onto the ball though – teammate Roy Williams got into the act when Darren Sharper poked one away from him after a reception; and then there was Viking QB Tarvaris Jackson, who one-upped – actually, two-upped – O’Sullivan in the INT department, tossing four in the game.

On a day filled with shaky play, Tarvaris Jackson looked downright clueless. His first turnover came in the Vikings’ first offensive series – a head-scratcher that featured Jackson rolling out, then trying to throw across his body into traffic and being picked by DT Sean Cody. Jackson followed this folly up on the first play of the second quarter by tossing one up for grabs and having Detroit CB Keith Smith say thank you very much as he pulled it down. Detroit’s Gerald Alexander and Idress Bashir would also be recipients of gift-wrapped T-Jack interceptions – and these were not tipped-balls or instances of guys making great plays; they were lame-duck toss-ups by a quarterback desperate to make something happen in an offense he clearly has no idea how to properly run. Not all Viking fans were unhappy, I’m guessing, when Jackson injured his leg and was yanked from the game early in overtime – even if that meant the insertion of back-up Brooks Bollinger, who ended up predictably fumbling the ball over to Detroit to set up their game-winning drive.

The Vikings were able to make a few things happen offensively despite Jackson’s hopelessless. Again, putting the ball in the hands of Adrian Peterson proved Minnesota’s best offensive option – AD finished with 113 total yards, highlighted by a fantastic catch-and-run that featured Peterson lowering his shoulder on would-be tackler Gerald Alexander and knocking him into next Tuesday. Enthusiasm for Peterson still runs high, with one little reservation – there were times today when he looked too anxious to try and bounce plays outside, rather than cut up the field. He finished with only 66 rushing yards on 20 attempts – partly because he was trying the corner too much, and partly because, with the Vikings passing game being mostly inept, Detroit was able to play up and prevent Peterson from breaking any big runs. Numbers don’t tell the story with Peterson though – his physical tools are obvious; he only needs an effective offense around him to become a star player.

Of course Peterson was not the only rookie phenom on the field today – Calvin Johnson was out there for Detroit, and the man they call Megatron did not disappoint. Johnson had 4 catches for 61 yards, and added to this a 7 yard end-around that netted a key first down for Detroit. And he scored a touchdown too, on a previously-mentioned lob pass from J.T. O’Sullivan, which he caught over a woefully overmatched Cedric Griffin. As with Peterson, Johnson’s physical skills are obvious. The difference is that, as of now, Johnson has a more-developed offense to work within, and, if Kitna stays healthy, a QB who’s capable of making that offense work.

Notes: The Vikings’ inactives included RB Chester Taylor, FB Tony Richardson, S Mike Doss, DT Fred Evans and DE Erasmus James.

Mewelde Moore, inactive for week one, played in today’s game, tallying 86 total yards.

Adrian Peterson was the Vikings’ leading receiver by yardage for the second straight game. Bobby Wade was the leader in catches with 5.

The Vikings’ sputtering offense was aided by two long kick returns – a 56 yarder by Troy Williamson (that looked like it could’ve gone for more had he bothered trying to put a move on Jason Hanson) and a 60-yarder by Aundrae Allison. The kick and punt coverage were also solid for the Vikings.

Brad Childress, it was reported by the Fox side-line reporter, took over “some” play-calling duty in the second half. The Vikings’ offense did not seem to appreciably improve with Chilly calling some of the plays – though they did, I notice, run more lame fake end-arounds.

Tarvaris Jackson’s best play of the game netted no yards. It happened in the second quarter: Robert Ferguson was credited with a first-down catch on a play where he lay on the ground, and the ball seemed to bounce just before he cradled it. Jackson hurriedly got the offense together, got the ball snapped and spiked it – preventing Detroit from getting off what would certainly have been a successful challenge. This drive ended with Jackson scrambling for the Vikings’ only offensive touchdown of the day.

Darren Sharper was the leading tackler with 8. He also had two picks and a forced fumble.

Leslie Frazier seemed to back off his aggressive blitzing as the game progressed. It was not particularly effective early against Jon Kitna, who is slightly more proficient at getting balls off against pressure than Joey Harrington. The Vikings still ended up with 4 sacks, and did seem to be all over J.T. O’Sullivan when he was in there.

The Lions’ defense was in the Vikings’ backfield way too much. They dropped AD for losses a couple of times and, though they only managed to sack Jackson once, they forced him into a lot of bad throws and other situations where he didn’t seem sure what to do. Jackson may be elusive, but that doesn’t make him good against pressure – especially when he’s responding to it by chucking balls to the other team.

Tank Williams is useless. His only memorable moment was whiffing badly while trying to tackle Tatum Bell.

The officiating left a bit to be desired today. Not to be a typical fannish ass about it, but it seemed to me that the Lions got away with a lot of offensive holding. And there was a roughing-the-passer call against Spencer Johnson that was plain bullcrap (and was made worse by the fact that it led directly to a Detroit score).

The Vikings will try to regroup next weekend against the pitiful 0-2 Kansas City Chiefs. Be sure to keep an eye on the NFL Spreads, because when you make your NFL Picks you’ll probably want to go with the Vikes.