Favre, Rice dominate as Vikings beat Lions

Published 7:34 am Monday, November 16, 2009

Sidney Rice dropped a catchable pass late in the game, preventing him from setting Minnesota’s franchise record for single-game receiving yardage.

Rice punished himself for what was a harmless gaffe with the Vikings leading the Detroit Lions comfortably with 25 pushups. He didn’t need to feel bad. The damage was already done.

Brett Favre passed for a season-high 344 yards, 201 to Rice, and the Vikings overcame several self-inflicted setbacks to beat the Lions 27-10 on Sunday.

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“Physically speaking, he looks the part. There are a lot of guys in this league that do, but don’t play to their size. But Sidney does,” Favre said of his new favorite receiver, who has 27 receptions for 553 yards in his last four games.

Even when Rice is tightly covered, Favre isn’t afraid to fire a pass downfield. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound native of South Carolina, drafted in the second round by the Vikings in 2007, just keeps fighting through the contact and coming up with the ball.

“Sidney never surprises me. I have a nickname for him, and it’s ‘Showtime.’ He’s got it tattooed on his arm. It fits him well,” said Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns despite losing a fumble and contributing to another for Percy Harvin with a bad pitch on a reverse play.

Thanks to Favre’s arrival at quarterback and a summer spent working out with some of the game’s greatest receivers, Rice has emerged as quite a threat for the surging Vikings (8-1).

What he lacks in speed he has made up for with precision, position and poise.

“It seems like each game he’s getting better and better,” said left tackle Bryant McKinnie. “Some of those catches are definitely Randy Moss-esque.”

Rice compared jockeying for the ball to boxing out for a rebound in basketball, a sport he considers his second favorite. Beyond that, what’s the secret to his success with Favre?

“Just communication and trust,” Rice said.

The Lions (1-8) joined the Houston Oilers — from Nov. 21, 1982, through Nov. 4, 1984 — as the only NFL teams to lose 31 games in a 33-game stretch, according to STATS LLC.

“You see the progress and see that we’re improving,” linebacker Julian Peterson said. “We just can’t get over that extra hump.”

After a slew of injuries and more poor pass coverage, the Lions dropped their 12th straight at the Metrodome despite keeping another game close for three quarters.

“We came in with our first goal, which was to stop Adrian Peterson, but with Favre landing bombs like he did it was kind of hard,” linebacker DeAndre Levy said. “It throws off everyone, from the D-line to the cornerbacks.”

In addition to three turnovers, one on downs, inside the Detroit 20 in the first half, the Vikings committed a season-high 13 penalties, totaling 91 yards.

The fact that they were able to lead the entire game despite not playing their best provided more evidence of the talent discrepancy between these two teams.

“We’re not here to try to impress people,” linebacker Ben Leber said. “We’re here to get some wins.”

This was Matthew Stafford’s second game without an interception even against a fierce Vikings pass rush, though, and his receivers dropped a handful of passes.

“I’m not worried about Matt,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “Good gracious. We don’t need to sit there and worry about him every single time. It’s about this team, and we didn’t handle their pressure well.”

Kevin Smith’s fumble — forced and recovered by Ray Edwards, who was all over the field — on the first play of the third quarter set up Peterson for a 27-yard run and a 1-yard score to stretch the lead to 17-3.

Stafford finished 29 for 51 for 224 yards and one touchdown, which brought the Lions within 17-10. They were going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 48 late in the third quarter, but with the crowd roaring they called timeout to talk it over and then decided to punt.

Early in the fourth, Favre found Rice open for a 56-yard pass to set up a short touchdown toss to Jeff Dugan, essentially sealing the victory and moving the Vikings one game closer to clinching the NFC North.