After two touchdown catches from Calvin Johnson and three field goals from Jason Hanson in the second half gave the Lions the lead with 2:30 to play, the Vikings were able to tie the game with 1:11 left in regulation thanks to a 49- yard field goal from Ryan Longwell.
The Lions, though, won the coin toss in overtime and a 40-yard catch from Johnson set up a 32-yard field goal from Hanson to give the Lions the win. Detroit came back from its largest deficit ever in the second half in the regular season.
"You have to hit it right all the time and in overtime those goalposts start to shrink," said Hanson. "This game was a huge boost for us. To come back in this game felt real good and we're all excited in this locker room right now."
The Lions (3-0) have started their season with three straight wins for the first time since 1980 while the Vikings (0-3) dropped their first three games of the season for the first time since 2002.
"It feels great to start the season this way," said Detroit defensive end Ndamukong Suh. "This is what I expect from this team. We started out slow, but we're able to limit their points and the offense picked it up in the second half."
It was another epic meltdown in the final 30 minutes by a Vikings team that has been outscored 67-6 after halftime this season. It is the third week in a row that the team has blown a double-digit lead in the second half.
"They have good players over there and are 3-0 for a reason," said Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway. "They're making plays on their side of the ball and it was a tale of two halves. It's been that way for us since the start of the season. If we find out a way to play four quarter we're going to be hard to beat."
Matthew Stafford went 32-for-46 with 378 yards and two touchdowns, Brandon Pettigrew had 11 catches for 112 yards while Johnson finished with seven catches for 108 yards for Detroit, which has won seven straight dating back to last season.
"We're just going to have to stay strong and keep fighting and continue to make our adjustments and just get better next game," said Peterson.
Starting with the ball at his own 20 in overtime, Stafford completed a 17-yard pass to Titus Young on the second play. After an incompletion, Stafford threw a deep pass down the left sideline that Johnson caught over his shoulder in one-on-one coverage. The next play saw Hanson boot it through the uprights for the win at the 1:59 mark.
The Lions, who were thoroughly dominated in the first half, started the third quarter with the ball, but had to punt.
The defense, though, held Minnesota to a three-and-out and the Lions got the ball back near midfield. Four plays later at the Minnesota 32, Stafford lofted a pass down the right side and Johnson outleaped the defender for the catch and score to make it a 20-7 game with 9:22 left in the third.
Another Minnesota three-and-out saw Detroit get the ball back at the 50-yard- line and turn it into three points on a 28-yard field goal from Hanson with 3:14 left in the third. The big play of the drive was a 27-yard catch from Pettigrew.
The first play of the fourth quarter saw the Lions make it a three-point game as Stafford zipped a ball to the back of the end zone for Johnson on a five- yard score and the receiver's sixth touchdown catch of the season.
Stafford was able to convert two third downs on the drive, but it stalled at the Minnesota 32 after Chris Cook made a nice play on a pass to Johnson. Hanson, though, calmly booted the ball between the uprights from 50 yards out to tie the game with 5:20 to play in the fourth.
Minnesota again had nothing going offensively and had to punt. Detroit was only able to move 25 yards, but it was enough for Hanson as he kicked a 40- yard field goal with 2:30 to play for a 23-20 lead.
The Vikings, though, moved quickly to get into scoring position and were able to get a 49-yard field goal from Longwell with 1:11 left to force overtime.
The Vikings started the game with the ball and turned that into three points on a 33-yard field goal from Longwell with 9:38 left in the first. The big play of the drive was a 43-yard run between blockers and down the right sideline by Peterson on 2nd-and-6 at the Minnesota 37.
After a three-and-out from Detroit, the Vikings got into the red zone again, but again were only able to make three points out of it as a 41-yard field goal from Longwell capped the drive for a 6-0 lead with 5:19 left in the first.
Detroit's offensive woes continued in the second quarter while the Vikings were finally able to put one in the end zone.
Starting with the ball at their own 33, the Vikings went 67 yards in just six plays with Peterson finishing the march on a six-yard run to the left for a 13-0 lead with 6:01 left in the half. The score was set up on a 39-yard end around from Percy Harvin.
Late in the half, a Detroit punt was returned 53 yards by Marcus Sherels and a facemask penalty on the punter gave the Vikings the ball at the Detroit 13. Three plays later, McNabb found Visanthe Shiancoe in the back of the end zone to give the Vikings a 20-0 lead going into the break.