MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson is back in a big way, and the Minnesota Vikings suddenly appear to be so much more than a one-man show.

Peterson rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns in his return from a knee injury and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson continued his steady improvement to lead the surging Vikings to a 42-10 victory over the free-falling Detroit Lions on Sunday.

In the last three weeks, Jackson has shown poise, an accurate arm and command of the offense that simply wasn't there early in the season, and Sunday was his best game yet.

He was 18-of-24 for 204 yards and two touchdowns, and the Vikings (6-6) scored TDs on their first six possessions to win their third in a row and fourth in the last five games.

The streak has the Vikings right back in the thick of the NFC playoff picture, thanks in large part to a November swoon by the Lions that has an all-too familiar feel for their long-suffering fans.

Jon Kitna threw for 260 yards and one touchdown for the Lions (6-6), who have lost four in a row to waste a 6-2 start that had fans crowing that the roar was restored in Detroit.

A month later, the Lions are looking more like the hapless Motor City Kitties who started the season with more losses than any team in the NFL over the last six years.

Coming in, the Lions talked about needing a sense of urgency to turn things around. But they showed nothing of the sort in a woeful effort.

The Lions rushed for just 23 yards on seven attempts against the league's top-ranked run defense, committed three personal foul penalties during shows of frustration and were manhandled at the line of scrimmage.

Peterson returned after missing two weeks with a torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee and was inserted into the starting lineup. Wearing a brace, the star rookie looked to be just a step slower than his usual blazing self — but that was still two steps faster than the Lions' defense.

He ripped off a 28-yard run on the first possession to set up a touchdown run by Chester Taylor, then added a 16-yard scoring run of his own to help the Vikings jump out to a 14-3 lead.

The Lions came right back and scored on a 2-yard pass from Kitna to Casey FitzSimmons, but rookie Aundrae Allison returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown to get the Vikings rolling in a stunningly productive 28-point second quarter.

Jackson threw touchdown passes to Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice in the second quarter, and the Vikings led 35-10 at halftime.

Peterson finished off the Lions on the first drive of the second half when he burst through a gigantic hole and then made safety Kenoy Kennedy look foolish with a paralyzing juke on his way to a 13-yard touchdown.

Taylor added 70 yards on the ground and the Vikings rushed for 216 total yards.

Vikings fans haven't seen a dominating offensive performance like this since Randy Moss was headlining a high-flying show with Daunte Culpepper, Cris Carter and Robert Smith.

Coach Brad Childress, who has taken his fair share of criticism for being too conservative on offense and placing too much faith in Jackson at quarterback, emptied the playbook Sunday.

Up 42-10, he called a fake field goal that got a first down and then a halfback pass that Visanthe Shiancoe dropped in the end zone.

It's about the only thing that went wrong all day for the Vikings, who moved into a tie with the Lions for the final wild-card spot in the NFC.

At this rate, Kitna and the crumbling Lions will only be an afterthought.

Receiver Roy Williams left in the first half with a knee injury, and Kitna hasn't been able to capture that Mike Martz magic that led to him boldly proclaim that the Lions were headed to the playoffs this year.

It's not just a Detroit problem. Kitna fell to 13-25 in his career in games played in December and January.