Minnesota's Sidney Rice snags a 56-yard pass from Brett Favre. He had 201 yards receiving.
Jim Mone / AP Enlarge
MINNEAPOLIS - Even when Sidney Rice is tightly covered, Brett Favre isn't afraid to fire a pass downfield.
Favre's new favorite receiver just keeps fighting through the contact and coming up with the ball, perhaps finally making Minnesota fans forget Randy Moss.
Favre passed for a season-high 344 yards, 201 to Rice, and the Vikings overcame several self-inflicted setbacks to beat the Detroit Lions 27-10 yesterday.
"Sidney never surprises me," said Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns. "I have a nickname for him, and it's 'Showtime.' He's got it tattooed on his arm. It fits him well."
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."
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.
"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."
Peterson lost a fumble and threw a bad pitch to Percy Harvin for another turnover, both inside the Detroit 20 in the first half. The Vikings committed a season-high 13 penalties, totaling 91 yards.
"We're not here to try to impress people," linebacker Ben Leber said. "We're here to get some wins."
The Favre-Rice combination has been impressive, particularly in the past month. In the past four games, Rice has 27 receptions for 553 yards.
"Anyone can be stopped, but he sure is difficult to cover," Favre said. "The type of plays he makes I think is what we all expect him to do."
Rice wasn't healthy much of last season, but he never found that connection with Tarvaris Jackson. Fittingly, when Jackson relieved Favre late in the game, Rice dropped his first throw.
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.
Matthew Stafford has had a rough rookie season, learning on the go with the Lions still dogged by glaring weaknesses a year after becoming the first 0-16 team in NFL history. This was his 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 one-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.
NOTES: Rice's drop cost him the team single-game record, set by Sammy White with 210 yards against the Lions in 1976. He punished himself on the sideline afterward with 25 pushups. ... The Lions held FS Louis Delmas out with an infected tooth, and his replacement Marquand Manuel left later after hurting his shoulder.