Vikings Beat Lions and Keep Hopes Alive

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 10, 2006; 6:05 PM

DETROIT -- Artose Pinner enjoyed the best game of his career against the team that cut him three months ago.

But he insisted it was more gratifying to help the Minnesota Vikings stay in the playoff picture.

Pinner had career highs with 125 yards rushing and three touchdowns Sunday to lift Minnesota to a 30-20 win over the Detroit Lions.

"It was more important that it gives us a chance to stay in the playoff race," he said.

Despite losing five of their previous six games and being under .500, the Vikings (6-7) still have a shot at playing in January.

"It's kind of like NCAA tournament time and we're still in it," Minnesota safety Darren Sharper said. "If we win our next three, I believe we'll definitely be in."

The Lions (2-11), meanwhile, have lost five straight and the only consolation for the hapless franchise is it can't break the record for the most losses in a six-season span. Detroit, an NFL-worst 23-70 since 2001, would fall one setback short of the 74 losses Tampa Bay had from 1983-88 if its closes the season without a win.

Offensive tackle Jeff Backus has started every game during the miserable stretch, and the past two weeks he had to congratulate former Michigan teammates: Tom Brady in New England and Steve Hutchinson of the Vikings.

"I'm jealous of those guys," Backus said. "They've been able to have success and enjoy their careers. What fun is there in losing every week?"

One home game after Miami's Joey Harrington threw three TDs in a win against Detroit, which drafted him third overall in 2002, another former Lion had a big day at Ford Field.

Pinner, among Detroit's final cuts before the season, replaced injured Chester Taylor (ribs) and played ahead of backups expected to take a larger role.

"We had to introduce ourselves," Minnesota Brad Johnson joked.

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