Staring at a 20-0 deficit as they trudged into the Metrodome locker room at halftime, the old Detroit Lions would have started making plans to leave Minnesota with another loss.
In this young season, it is becoming abundantly clear that these are not the same old Lions.
Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes in the second half to help Detroit get to overtime, and Jason Hanson kicked a 32-yard field goal to finish a 26-23 victory over the Vikings yesterday.
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 double-digit 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. Johnson made a brilliant 40-yard catch with Cedric Griffin all over him, and Hanson calmly drilled the field goal for the winning score.
“It was as tough a win . . . as I’ve been a part of,’’ said Lions coach Jim Schwartz. “We had to overcome a lot of adversity. It’s tough to be down 20 at the half.’’
The Lions had minus-7 yards of offense in the first quarter, and Marcus Sherels’s 53-yard punt return set up Donovan McNabb’s 8-yard TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe for a 20-0 lead right before the break.
Stafford’s 5-yard TD toss to Johnson made it 20-17 early in the fourth quarter, and Vikings coach Leslie 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.
Saints 40, Texans 33 Drew Brees passed for 370 yards and three touchdowns and twice led host New Orleans back from fourth-quarter deficits against Houston. Mark Ingram’s first career touchdown, on a 13-yard run, gave the Saints (2-1) the lead for good with less than three minutes left.
Matt Schaub passed for 373 yards and three TDs for Houston (2-1), which was doomed in the end by four drives inside the 20 that resulted in only field goals, along with Schaub’s lone interception in the fourth quarter that set up Brees’s 16-yard scoring pass to Lance Moore.
The lead changed hands five times in a thrilling second half that included a slew of big plays and one bizarre TD in which Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas’s bobbled interception attempt put the ball in the lap of Kevin Walter. The receiver then darted into the end zone for a 20-yard score that gave Houston a 33-32 lead and stunned the Louisiana Superdome crowd. New Orleans marched right back down the field, though, covering 93 yards in eight plays for Ingram’s winning score.
Browns 17, Dolphins 16 Colt McCoy threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Mohamed Massaquoi with 43 seconds left, capping an 80-yard drive in the final minutes to rally host Cleveland past winless Miami.
McCoy was 9 of 13 for all 80 yards on Cleveland’s final drive, making up for an otherwise lackluster performance. The Browns (2-1) then withstood a late comeback attempt as safety Mike Adams intercepted Miami’s Chad Henne with 13 seconds left.
Titans 17, Broncos 14 Matt Hasselbeck celebrated his 36th birthday by passing for 311 yards and two scores, including a go-ahead 4-yard touchdown toss to Daniel Graham with 4:24 left that lifted Tennessee (2-1) over Denver (1-2) in Nashville.
Graham’s first catch of the season came after Hasselbeck lost his top receiver, Kenny Britt, to a knee injury in the second quarter. Britt will have tests today to determine the extent of the injury.
Panthers 16, Jaguars 10 After throwing for more than 400 yards in each of his first two games, Carolina rookie Cam Newton finished with just 158 on 18-for-34 passing but got his first victory by finding Greg Olsen over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown with 4:20 left in Charlotte, N.C.
Newton also found Olsen for the ensuing 2-point conversion that helped Carolina (1-2) rally from a 10-5 halftime deficit. Blaine Gabbert threw for 139 yards in his starting debut for Jacksonville (1-2).
Ravens 37, Rams 7 Rookie Torrey Smith went for long touchdowns on three passes from Joe Flacco totaling 133 yards in the first quarter, sparking a franchise record-setting day on offense by visiting Baltimore (2-1) in a rout of defenseless St. Louis (0-3).
The Ravens had a 406-yard first half and finished with 553 yards, both bests for the franchise that moved from Cleveland in 1996. Flacco was 27 of 48 for a career-high 389 yards. Smith had five catches for 152 yards.
Steelers 23, Colts 20 Ben Roethlisberger was 25 of 37 for 364 yards and a touchdown and set up Shaun Suisham for a 38-yard field goal with four seconds left to lift Pittsburgh (2-1) in Indianapolis. Troy Polamalu’s 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown finally gave the Steelers a second-half lead against the feisty Colts (0-3), who rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit.
Buccaneers 16, Falcons 13 Josh Freeman scored the first rushing touchdown of his career and Tampa Bay’s defense forced three turnovers and sacked Matt Ryan four times in its best performance of the season. The Buccaneers (2-1) ended a five-game losing streak against Atlanta (1-2).
49ers 13, Bengals 8 Kendall Hunter ran 7 yards for the game’s only touchdown with 3:59 to go, rallying San Francisco (2-1) in front of Cincinnati’s smallest crowd for a home opener in 30 years. It was an ugly game - the 49ers didn’t cross midfield until midway through the third quarter, and the Bengals (1-2) were limited to a pair of field goals and a gift safety with two seconds left.
Chargers 20, Chiefs 17 Ryan Mathews scored twice, Eric Weddle intercepted the Chiefs’ Matt Cassel at midfield with 55 seconds left, and host San Diego improved to 2-1 for just the second time in Norv Turner’s five seasons as coach. Kansas City dropped to 0-3.
Seahawks 13, Cardinals 10 Tarvaris Jackson put Seattle in the lead with a bulldozing 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Kam Chancellor sealed the home victory with an interception of Arizona’s Kevin Kolb with 1:04 left. Both teams are 1-2 in the underwhelming NFC West.