Super rookie Adrian Peterson returned and darted through the division-rival Lions for two TD and 116 yards.
A couple of late gadget plays didn't swing the tide of the blowout, but the no-holds-barred message was clear.
Clinging to a 32-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Vikings clearly needed some breathing room Sunday. Desperate, they dug deep into their bag of tricks: a fake field goal followed by a halfback option in a span of less than two minutes.
The plays had little impact on the outcome as the Vikings squeaked by Detroit 42-10 for their third consecutive victory. The wisdom of using two unique plays during a blowout can be debated, but they served a clear purpose for one of the NFL's hottest teams.
Coach Brad Childress said he wanted to give upcoming opponents something to think about, but veteran safety Darren Sharper knew better.
"It's an attitude," Sharper said. "That let us know that we're going to go for the jugular here, right now. It's letting us know that we can't be complacent. We needed to finish the game and ... "
Sharper did not complete the thought -- the Vikings are taking it one game at a time, after all -- but the point was clear. The Vikings have won four of their past five games, crawling back to a .500 record (6-6), but they have grander goals. Despite obstacles in the NFC tiebreaker system, the Vikings are hoping to will their way into the playoffs.
"You obviously like to see the output and you like to see it at this time of year," Childress said. "We are a work in progress, and we'll be a work in progress until we finish here. ... But, I like the fact that we're ascending right now in December."
Yes, on Sunday the Vikings played their Best Game of the Childress Era (BGCE). It came a week after their previous BGCE, a 41-17 stomping of the New York Giants, which came three weeks after the BGCE before that -- a 35-17 victory over San Diego.
Their annual whipping of the Lions, who last won at the Metrodome in 1997, included a balanced offense that scored touchdowns on its first six possessions, producing 227 passing yards and 216 yards on the ground. Tailback Adrian Peterson returned from a knee injury to rush for 116 yards and two touchdowns, but quarterback Tarvaris Jackson continued his steady improvement with a career-high two touchdown passes.
The game turned midway through the second quarter, when the Vikings took a 21-10 lead on rookie Aundrae Allison's 103-yard kickoff return. At about the same time, Lions receiver Roy Williams -- who already had caught five passes for 85 yards -- left the game because of a knee injury.
The Vikings defense had little trouble after Williams' departure, and Jackson followed with scoring strikes to receivers Bobby Wade (6 yards) and Sidney Rice (2 yards) as the Vikings took a 35-10 halftime lead.
"This is what happens when everyone just goes out and has fun," nose tackle Pat Williams said. "With everyone having fun like this, who knows what we can do?"
Williams made sure to get in his laughs afterward, teasing defensive end Kenechi Udeze for his slow-motion return of an interception late in the second quarter.
Udeze managed to advance the ball 37 yards after plucking Jon Kitna's wobbly pass out of the air; the play set up Rice's touchdown reception. Udeze seemed to have a clear shot to the end zone, but he was caught from behind by former Vikings receiver Troy Walters.
"Everyone outran you!" Williams told Udeze. "E.J. [Henderson] was trying to block for you, and he outran you. Some lady in the second row outran you. I think a piano would have outran you."
Udeze noted he had rushed the passer on five consecutive plays.
"I tried to get out of first gear, but I couldn't," he said.
There was plenty to smile about Sunday. The Vikings committed only one turnover and were whistled for a modest four penalties. Their defense limited the Lions' dynamic pass offense to 231 yards while their own quarterback continued his steady climb. Tight end/fullback Jeff Dugan rumbled 27 yards on the fake field goal, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was open for a touchdown on Chester Taylor's halfback pass from the Detroit 5-yard line. (Shiancoe dropped the ball.)
Finally, it was notable that rookies scored four of the Vikings' six touchdowns. That figure bodes well for the team's future, but as they made clear Sunday, the Vikings are not punting on the present.
"We can be a tough team to beat," Sharper said, "because we have a solid defense and if our offense is going to play the way it is playing, it makes it a lot easier. If we can get up by some points and just pin our ears back, we can do some things."
Kevin Seifert email@example.com