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Detroit officially falls out of postseason contention

DETROIT (AP) -- Don Muhlbach wishes nobody knew his name.

"No one ever knows you until you mess up," Detroit's long snapper said.

Muhlbach sure messed up, allowing Minnesota to seal a 28-27 victory over the Lions on Sunday.

The rookie's snap bounced to holder Nick Harris, who was tackled
before he could get the football spotted for Jason Hanson, botching an extra-point kick with eight seconds left that would've tied the game.

"I feel bad for him," Daunte Culpepper said. "But I feel good for us."

After the fortunate break, Randy Moss recovered the onside kick for the Vikings (8-6), who took a big step toward their first playoff berth in four years.

"We finally got a bounce to go our way," Minnesota coach Mike Tice said.

Despite losing five of its previous seven games, Minnesota can win the NFC North with a victory Friday at home over Green Bay and at Washington. In the awful NFC, Minnesota could even be a wild-card team without another win.

"It's just another step, another piece of the puzzle," Culpepper said.

Culpepper, who was 25-of-35 for 404 yards, threw three TD passes and Moe Williams scored the go-ahead TD on an 11-yard run with 1:37 left.

The Lions then went 80 yards to pull within a point on Joey Harrington's second touchdown pass to Roy Williams.

Just when the crowd started chanting "Jo-ey! Jo-ey!" -- after booing him for much of the year -- it was silenced by the miscue Detroit will be thinking about for a long time.

The Lions (5-9) officially fell out of the postseason race with their seventh loss in eight games, with a heartbreaker that stunned the players.

"Wow," Detroit guard Damien Woody said to himself on the field. "Wow."

Nate Burleson, who had five receptions for 134 yards, caught a career-high two TDs.

"I've been saying all along, he's a playmaker," Culpepper said.

Moss and Culpepper hooked up for the longest play of their careers, an 82-yard TD, and Moss finished with four catches for 102 yards.

He caught his 88th TD, tying Hall of Famer Don Maynard for eighth on the NFL's all-time list, and had his 41st 100-yard game, surpassing Cris Carter's team record. Moss declined comment after the game.

Culpepper tied his career high of 33 TD passes, set in 2000, and is one shy of Randall Cunningham's team mark. All of his scoring passes Sunday were on third downs, including a third-and-24 on Moss' TD.

Harrington was 25-of-44 for a career-high 361 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Williams, in and out of the game with a hip injury, had seven receptions for 104 yards and scored for the first
time in almost two months.

Kevin Jones was held to 79 yards and a TD after running for more than 150 yards the previous two games.

Both Harrington and Jones played with the flu. The much-maligned quarterback felt even worse when Detroit blew a chance to force
overtime.

"I wasn't even watching," he said. "I was walking back to the bench, and I heard a groan and looked up at the Jumbotron.

"It hurts. We played well enough to win," he said.

The poor snap followed a costly string of miscues for the Lions, who trailed 14-13 at halftime.

In the scoreless third quarter, Detroit had two turnovers -- an interception at the Minnesota 3 and fumble at the 29 -- and the Vikings had one in a span of six plays.

The Lions were moving early in the fourth quarter until Harrington lofted a pass into a crowd that was intercepted by Brian Williams at the 18.

Minnesota then went ahead 21-13 on Culpepper's short pass to Burleson, who outran Brock Marion to the sideline and scored a 36-yard TD on a third-and-5.

A fantastic play by Az-Zahir Hakim gave the Lions life and helped them tie the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Harrington threw to Hakim, who ran up the middle of the field 37 yards before tossing a lateral to Shawn Bryson, who gained another 25 yards, giving the Lions the ball at the 14.

Three plays later, Harrington threw a 9-yard TD pass to Williams over a linebacker and in front of a defensive back. A holding call gave Detroit a second chance at a two-point conversion and Harrington took advantage with a pass to Tai Streets to tie the game.
Game notes
Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie left the game because of back spasms. ... Harrington's previous career high was a 309-yard game in 2002 at Minnesota. ... Culpepper is 9-0 against the Lions and
Tice is 6-0. ... The Vikings are 29-12 when Moss has 100 yards
receiving. ... James Hall reached 10{ sacks Sunday, the first Lion since Robert Porcher in 2001 to have at least 10 sacks.

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