DETROIT - The Minnesota Vikings didn't talk much about avoiding the embarrassment of losing to Detroit.

They didn't have to.

"In your mind you don't want to be the team to lose to a winless team this late in the year," Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen said yesterday after the Vikings beat the Lions, 20-16. "That's not the part of history that any of us in here want to be a part of."

Tarvaris Jackson threw a go-ahead touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, playing for the injured Gus Frerotte, and the NFC North-leading Vikings (8-5) held on for the victory.

Detroit (0-13) had chances to win, just as it did in a two-point loss at Minnesota, but couldn't make enough plays, just as it has failed to do throughout a miserable season.

"It's another loss and it's totally unacceptable," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said.

The Lions seem destined to be the NFL's first 0-16 team. The Lions finish at Indianapolis, against New Orleans and at Green Bay.

The Lions are the fourth team to start 0-13 or worse since 1976, when Tampa Bay infamously finished 0-14 as an expansion team.

However, the 2007 Dolphins (0-13), 1986 Colts (0-13) and 1980 Saints (0-14) avoided the dubious distinction of being the first team to finish winless since the league lengthened the regular season in 1978. *