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Thursday, December 30, 1999
Baxter Bits: Lions at Vikings

By Russell S. Baxter
Special to ESPN.com

The Lions make their way to the Metrodome in position to sweep this divisional rivalry for the second time in three seasons.

Three months ago at the Silverdome (Week 6), the Lions jumped out to a 19-0 halftime advantage thanks to CB Terry Fair's 41-yard interception return and 4 field goals by PK Jason Hanson. But Vikings QB Jeff George (replacing an ineffective Randall Cunningham) led Minnesota to 20 straight points and eventually a 23-22 lead with 1:40 remaining. But Lions' backup QB Gus Frerotte (replacing injured starter Charlie Batch) led his club down the field and Hanson connected on his sixth field goal of the afternoon, a 48-yarder with :07 to play as Bobby Ross' team came back for a 25-23 victory.

Despite this season's earlier loss, the Vikings have traditionally owned the upper hand in this series (46-28-2) but own just a one-game edge (8-7) in the teams' last 15 meetings dating back to Dennis Green's arrival in the Twin Cities in 1992.

As for Detroit's last appearance at the Metrodome (Week 3 of '98), Lions QB Charles Batch made his NFL debut and Vikings QB Randall Cunningham made his first start of the '98 season, but it was Minnesota's aggressive defense which forced four Detroit turnovers and sacked Batch five times, while Vikings PK Gary Anderson booted five field goals as Dennis Green's club posted a 29-6 win.

The Lions are 6-10 in 16 previous visits to the Metrodome dating back to 1983, including 4-5 in Minneapolis in the 1990s.

Numbers: Including playoffs, the Lions have allowed 317 points in 22 victories (17 or fewer points in 16 of those wins) and 686 points in 26 losses dating back to '97. Including playoffs, the Lions have forced 51 turnovers in 22 wins, 25 takeaways in 25 losses dating back to '97. The Lions have allowed three or more sacks in four straight games and 12-of-15 contests in '99. They have been limited to 16 or fewer points in three straight games.

WR Cris Carter has scored at least one touchdown in 34 of his last 52 regular-season contests dating back to '96. QB Jeff George has thrown two or more touchdown passes in eight of his last 10 games. Since 1996, the Vikings have 101 takeaways in 42 wins, 23 takeaways in 21 losses in 61 regular-season contests. The Vikings have allowed 13 sacks and committed just 13 turnovers in nine wins, while committing 23 turnovers and allowing 24 sacks in six losses in '99. They have 21 takeaways in nine wins, seven takeaways in six losses in '99. The Vikings have committed two or more turnovers in seven straight games.

Things to look for: Although they're playoff bound, the Lions are limping down the stretch as Bobby Ross' club is struggling on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, the inconsistent Vikings appear back on track thanks to QB Jeff George and company, although Minnesota's defense continues to be a liability. Dennis Green will work on his running game here, meaning plenty of carries for RB Robert Smith.

Etc.: The Lions have lost three straight games. They have lost four straight road games. Since 1997 (including playoffs), the Lions are 22-26 under head coach Bobby Ross, including 14-10 vs. NFC Central rivals. The Vikings are 39-26 vs. NFC Central rivals (including playoffs) since '92 (under head coach Dennis Green) after going 6-10 vs. divisional competition from 1990-91, however Minnesota is just 22-21 (including playoffs) in its last 43 contests vs. NFC Central rivals dating back to 1994. The Vikings have won four straight home games. The Vikings were 47-13-1 at home (including playoffs) in the months of November, December and January from 1967-81 at Metropolitan Stadium. However, the Vikings are 51-33 (including playoffs) in the months of November, December and January from 1982-99 at the Metrodome. Vikings WR Cris Carter (115) needs one touchdown to tie John Riggins (116) for 6th place on the NFL's all-time touchdowns scored list.