One may be the Lions' Ghost of Seasons Past. The other may serve as the Ghost of Seasons Future.
But longtime Detroit kicker Jason Hanson (four field goals) and explosive rookie tailback Kevin Jones (123 rushing yards, 1 TD) converged to shape the team's present on Sunday, as the reliable tandem catapulted the Lions to a hard-fought 19-13 victory over the Chicago Bears, before an audience of 61,924 at Ford Field.
This win, however, did not come easy for Detroit (6-9), which nearly lost a 16-0 lead in the third quarter before staving off Chicago's final-minute rally.
"A win is a win," says Lions head coach Steve Mariucci. "And I'm happy the team (was) not elated and celebrating (in the locker room)...our hopes and (long-term) dreams are a higher standard than that."
Boosted by Jones's consistent rushing gains (his longest run was 39 yards), Detroit seemed in high command throughout the game.
"Things are slowing down for me. I am just trying to get better each week, while preparing well at practice," says Jones, who also surpassed the 1,000 yard mark Sunday (a Lions feat only shared by Barry Sanders and Billy Sims). "I didn't have a complete game like I wanted to...I have just have to get better and do better next week (at Tennessee)."
But down by six with less than two minutes remaining, Chicago was moving methodically toward a go-ahead touchdown. And in a crucial play with 1:33 left, Bears quarterback Chad Hutchinson's 43-yard bomb to Bernard Berrian in the end zone was ruled incomplete.
In the instant-replay, though, Berrian may have secured the catch; but the officials ultimately declared that cornerback Andre' Goodman jolted the ball loose before Berrian took full possession.
Even if Chicago had scored then, Mariucci was very confident his offense would have executed a successful two-minute drive for the winning score. (But the point was moot, once the game officials upheld the Berrian incompletion.)
After this gut-wrenching sequence, the Lions' defense then prevented the Bears receivers from any more downfield catches -- thus sealing their third home win this season. Sensing the evolving maturity of his young club after an incomplete-but-positive result, Mariucci said his team is still resolute on achieving a "convincing win" before season's end.
"We're still striving for that," he says.
After Hanson's 31-yard field goal opened the scoring, the Lions then drove 70 yards in eight plays for a second-quarter touchdown, capped by Jones's one-yard plunge into the end zone. On the possession, Lions quarterback Joey Harrington completed four passes for 57 yards, including a 26-yard laser to rookie receiver Roy Williams at the Chicago 1. Detroit now had a 10-0 lead.
Detroit tacked on two Hanson field goals (34,39) before halftime, running the lead to 16. (In fact, the Lions were 3-for-3 in second-quarter drives.) On the final possession then, Harrington orchestrated a 62-yard drive in the waning moments -- including a picture-perfect 28-yard pass to receiver Reggie Swinton, between two defenders.
Mariucci was relatively pleased with the first-half performance before remarking, "Still, we've got to be able to finish teams off."
Detroit seemed on the verge of routing Chicago to open the second half, marching to the Bears' 24 -- before a fumble (resulting in a sizable loss) precluded Hanson from attempting another field goal. Two drives later, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs intercepted Harrington's pass -- amid a Bears' all-out blitz -- and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. But with the missed two-point try, Detroit still had a 16-6 lead.
"We know we should have finished (Chicago) off. We played pretty well in the first half," says Harrington, who completed 15-of-30 passes for 166 yards and one interception. "We moved the ball, did some good things...(then) we kind of slipped into a comfort zone. We just don't quite have that killer instinct. The mark of a great team is when you put a team down, you put another (score) on them."
In the fourth quarter, Hutchinson and Chicago tailback Thomas Jones keyed a 90-yard scoring drive -- capped by Jason McKie's 15-yard touchdown pass -- which cut Detroit's lead to six (19-13). However, there would be no more scoring.
For the totals, Detroit outperformed Chicago in the following categories: total yards (314-229), first downs (17-16), time of possession, rushing yards (158-124) and passing yards (156-105). Swinton earned the Lions' most receiving yards (42), whereas Williams led with three catches. And Jones propelled the rushing corps with 123 yards.
"It's great to see Kevin run like that," says Harrington. "Today's a great example of what a solid running back can do."
Regarding Chicago, Hutchinson completed 20-of-35 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. Thomas Jones paced the rushers with 109 yards on 22 carries. He also amassed team-highs in catches (four) and receiving yards (34).
With its home slate concluded, Detroit wraps up the season next Sunday at Tennessee (4-11). The Bears (5-10) host NFC North winners Green Bay (9-6) then in their home finale.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
It's neither avoidance nor denial. Think of it as tunnel vision.
On the heels of a painful loss to Green Bay from Sunday, Detroit Lions Head Coach Steve Mariucci bore the look of a man resolute on not the sweating the fates of other NFC clubs in playoff contention. Why worry about things you cannot control, right?
In fact, at his regular Monday media address, he barely broached the team's postseason prospects -- despite sitting one game back in the wild-card standings (with three games remaining).
"I'm not concerned about the playoff race right now, even though we're still in it," says Mariucci. "We're not going to talk about three games (remaining) -- we'll talk about the next one. Our focus, concentration and energy will be on beating the Minnesota Vikings."
Detroit's 16-13 defeat to Green Bay -- a game in which the Lions (5-8) only trailed for two total seconds -- plunged the club back into a six-team pool (along with Dallas, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Chicago) for the final playoff opening, behind 6-7 St. Louis and Carolina.
But it also served as a harsh reminder to Mariucci that moral victories have a limited shelf-life of acceptance in the NFL.
"We lost (Sunday) close...but we lost it and that's the bottom line," says Mariucci, adding the club had an excellent showing in the first half, in terms of being properly prepared, playing physical football, weathering the cold and windy elements of Lambeau Field and displaying high confidence in the coaches' game plan. "However, the bottom line is winning the football game and making the plays necessary at the end to win it -- not to come close.
"We have too many ‘close ones.' Whether it means getting one more sack, one less penalty, one more catch, one more throw, one more first down when you have 3rd-and-1 or one more red-zone touchdown, that’s what we have to do; and that’s the bottom line," he says. "While I was pleased with a lot of things in that football game, there were not enough good things that occurred in order for us to steal a win. It would have been a great win, but close doesn’t get it done. Close gets you 5-8."
Generally speaking, Mariucci was heartened by the Lions' defense and running game (193 total yards) -- especially the blocking prowess of the offensive line and skill-position talent. Specifically, he marveled at the high-speed evolution of tailback Kevin Jones, who ran for 156 yards on 33 carries (a club record for rookies). In the last four games, he has accrued 551 rushing yards.
"That's one of the areas that we feel good about -- it is not just a one-man 'Kevin Jones Show.' Yes, he's playing well and he's doing it for us as a rookie," says Mariucci. "There is still upside, (and) he is going to get better as he keeps playing."
Amid Jones's stellar period, though, the offense has failed to score a touchdown in the second half of the last five games -- heavily factoring in the Lions' recent road losses to Jacksonville, Minnesota and Green Bay.
"It's a lack of efficiency and a lack of execution...In a game a like (Sunday's), the Packers controlled the ball in the second half -- especially in the third quarter," Mariucci explains. "They put two long drives together...we haven't had as many snaps in some of the second halves. Whatever the reason is, it's not acceptable. We need to score touchdowns in the second half."
Similar to most NFL teams, the Lions' success is predicated on the proficiency and playmaking capabilities of their quarterback, Joey Harrington. Coming off a tough outing (completing only 5-of-22 passes for 47 yards), Mariucci empathized with his signal-caller on Monday, amid a bevy of questions centered on whom would start against the Vikings -- Harrington or backup Mike McMahon?
"You know that I like Joey and that I like Mike -- I've said that several times publicly," says Mariucci. "They're both good guys and hard workers...you have to take that into consideration: Who gives us the best chance to win? Who is the most 'practiced up' at the time?"
Regardless of any future changes, Mariucci reaffirmed his trust in Harrington to win games and lead the team. (On the season, Harrington has connected on 201-of-366 passes for 2,174 yards and 15 TDs).
"I have confidence in Joey; I have faith in Joey. Would I like him to play better? You bet, absolutely. I can say the same thing about most of the guys on our football team...whose performances have been inconsistent, up-and-down and close but not always there," says Mariucci. "I'm looking at Joey hard, in terms of what he has had: in terms of coaching...experience...playing time...practice time...where he is right now and where he is headed (and) what kind of team do we have around him, in order for him to be more productive and successful."
Monday, November 29, 2004
The goal is not to settle on a quarterback for next season. Or to build Joey Harrington's confidence. Or to get another long look at Mike McMahon before he becomes a free agent.
At least, those are not coach Steve Mariucci's goals going into the Lions' last five games of the season.
"First and foremost, we're trying to win games right now," Mariucci said Friday. "Who gives us the best chance to win a game right now? So the last five games are the most important thing -- this Arizona game and the last five, obviously.
"We will have to determine what we're going to do for next year and going forward. Of course, we have to determine that. You've got one guy that's a free agent, you've got one guy that's been here for three years.
"That evaluation is taking place. Our aim is to develop these guys and improve these guys."
That might mean more relief appearances for McMahon or it might mean Harrington goes the distance, but for now -- to maintain a semblance of stability and order with an offense that has struggled for the past month -- Mariucci said he will stick with Harrington as the Lions' starting quarterback.
Mariucci opened the speculation season Thursday when he brought McMahon off the bench to play the final 17 minutes of the Lions' 41-9 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
He made the move, Mariucci said, not because Harrington was playing terribly but because the game had gotten away from the Lions and it was a good time to let McMahon get some work.
Harrington will be the quarterback Dec. 5 when the 4-7 Lions line up against the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field.
"Would we like him to be better?" Mariucci asked. "Of course, of course." And he shrugged off suggestions that the other players might be losing confidence in Harrington.
"The team's going to rally behind whoever's playing quarterback," Mariucci said. "It just will.
"I think playing Mike for however many snaps he got -- a bunch of throws and 20-some snaps -- was really good for him and really good for us.
"He's been practicing more. If he needs to be called upon again -- and I'm not ruling that out -- then he's more ready. So we'll just play it one game at a time here. We're not naming Joey the starter for the next 12 years. He's the quarterback now and if we choose to go to our backup and play, then we'll do that. It's not out of the question."
McMahon, a crowd favorite -- as most backup quarterbacks are in the NFL -- completed 11 of 15 passes for 77 yards, scrambled twice for 18 yards and put a spark of excitement back into the anti-Harrington crowd at Ford Field.
Although it was statistically one of McMahon's best games in four NFL seasons -- a completion mark of 73 percent -- he was no more successful getting the Lions into the end zone than Harrington had been. Harrington completed 14 of 23 passes for 156 yards in the first 43 minutes of the game.
"Joey didn't play poorly," Mariucci said. "That was not your typical hook with a guy that's playing bad. He was playing OK. There were some throws that would have been nice for him to make, where he would have had a pretty darned good performance."
In particular, Mariucci was thinking of two passes midway in the first quarter on the Lions' first possession. On the first -- a second-and-goal at the Colts' 2 -- Harrington overthrew wide-open tight end Stephen Alexander in the corner of the end zone.
On the next play, he threw the ball slightly behind wide receiver Roy Williams to avoid a defensive player closing in ahead of Williams, and Williams was unable to hold onto the ball on his back shoulder.
"If you look at the film and the breakdowns, a sack here and a penalty there, there's reasons other than the quarterback that drives are not ending up in the end zone," Mariucci said.
It has become unreal that with such a good start, that we could loose 5 straight and go from a 4-2 of the division to tied for last in the division. Our team isn't even focused on the present which is killing us. It is as if the last 5 games have been looked at as scrimmages. I hope we can pull ourselves out of the slump. Get a win you guys!
Thursday, November 18, 2004
From Detroit Free Press:
Detroit goes through quarterbacks like tissues.
They're easily disposable, momentarily offering relief, clearing your head but quickly outliving their usefulness because it seems you always need a fresh one five minutes later.
Five minutes is about the average shelf life for Lions quarterbacking competence in the past four decades.
The degree of patience is even less.
Branding Joey Harrington an irreversible failure remains overly premature, but concerns that his Lions career is leaning closer to getting crumpled and tossed into the trash are legitimate.
Harrington looks neither comfortable nor confident, an uneasiness shared inside the locker room and the coaches' offices.
Benching him isn't the answer because there's even less faith in backup Mike McMahon, leaving Steve Mariucci and Matt Millen with no choice but to tread water the remainder of this season and bring in a veteran capable of seriously challenging Harrington for the starting job next season.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the strategy when vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. circumvented Millen's authority and demanded that the Lions draft Harrington with the third pick in the 2002 draft.
The Lions blew it again, interested more in marketing a star than developing a quarterback.
The Fords needed a lure to their new downtown palace, and the most tantalizing bait for fans remains the hope that they've finally secured a quarterback who eventually would become the envy of the rest of the NFL.
But the Lions screwed up in not properly preparing Harrington. Where was the veteran presence when it could have made a difference?
Harrington's qualifications for becoming the starter three games into his rookie season were his fat contract and the public's ravenous curiosity. He has never had to win the job. He has never been pushed. And, as a result, it's impossible for him to be truly accountable for his mistakes.
Harrington obviously desires to play well, but he -- and everybody in that franchise -- knows he doesn't have to play well to keep his job because the Lions have surrounded him with little more than veteran advisors like Ty Detmer, not a true challenger.
Cincinnati awarded the starting quarterbacking job to Carson Palmer a year after taking him No. 1 overall. He hadn't earned the opportunity but harsh salary-cap ramifications for making the wrong decisions force teams to accelerate evaluations. But notice that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't jettison last year's rather successful starter, Jon Kitna.
That sent the proper message to Palmer. He would have to fight for his teammates' respect because repeated stumbles would place him back on the bench.
The New York Giants traded up to get Eli Manning, but they also brought in Kurt Warner to keep a steady fire burning under the rookie. Manning has impressed coaches enough to warrant his first start this weekend, but he'll still have a former two-time MVP looking over his shoulder.
Marty Mornhinweg and Mariucci bowed to their egos, foolishly believing they could transform the technically flawed McMahon into an effective challenger. But that's now an aborted ambition.
And now they're paying the price.
The Lions got the second and third overall draft picks in successive years, and their worst nightmare is that they will have nothing to show for it, stalling another rebuilding effort.
The dreams of a high-powered Joey Harrington-Charles Rogers tandem lasted ... about five minutes.
Rogers, the former Michigan State star, is basically damaged goods, and it can't help that Harrington's erratic arm leaves receivers too vulnerable for punishment when crossing the middle. Az-Zahir Hakim has taken so many shots to the body he can hardly walk. That's not exactly what somebody recovering from back-to-back broken collarbones wants weighing on his mind.
There's nothing wrong with competition. The Lions forgot that when they anointed Harrington. History paralyzed their common sense. They feared another quarterback quandary.
But that may be unavoidable now.
Monday, November 01, 2004
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After 13 seasons of serving as the Detroit Lions' defensive linchpin, linemen Robert Porcher was granted a release from the team Monday afternoon, with the intent on filing his official retirement papers soon.
Flanked by Lions President and CEO Matt Millen and head coach Steve Mariucci at the team's headquarters, an emotional Porcher met with the media, to reflect upon and celebrate his numerous professional and community achievements with the same franchise.
"We have the utmost respect for Robert, as a person, as a Lion...he's going to be a great alum," says Mariucci. "We thank him for everything he's ever done for this organization...we're proud of him, and he'll always be a Lion."
Mixing in some tears with his warm smile, Porcher expressed how blessed he felt to remain with the organization, city and hearty fan base throughout the years.
"Every player, we all think we can play forever; (but) sometimes there comes a point when you've got to let go," says Porcher, who ranks No. 3 for games played (187) with the Lions, trailing only Wayne Walker (200) and current kicker Jason Hanson (199). "To be able to say you played with the team that drafted you and still have a chance to say good-bye when your (career clock) expires...I can't say enough about that."
Porcher had been prepared for this scenario for a few months. And he had conducted regular discussions with Lions officials, as to how the final exit strategy would occur.
"Given the fact that he expressed his desire to be nothing but a Detroit Lion," says Millen, "(letting him retire) is probably the best way for us to go right now."
Asked if he ever considered playing for another team, Porcher shrugged off the notion before saying, "I wouldn't even look right in another uniform -- I'm a Detroit Lion. It's all about loyalty for me."
Selected as a first-rounder in the 1992 NFL Draft (South Carolina State), the 6-foot-3 pass rusher combined his athletic grace and raw power to become an immediate presence on the resurgent Lions. But he vividly recalls his nervousness for Detroit's regular-season opener at Chicago that season.
At first, he was awestruck by some of the Bears' legends, including Richard Dent and Steve McMichael. That is, until a friendly face, nose tackle Jerry Ball, put things into perspective.
"He said, 'Hey, this is for real...snap out of it!'" says Porcher, smiling at the memory.
The Lions' all-time career sack leader (95.5), Porcher led the team in this department eight different seasons (1993, 1996-01, 2003), making him the only Lion to accomplish this feat.
The 35-year old South Carolina native has appeared in three Pro Bowls, registered double-digit sack totals in four consecutive years (1996-99) and was the only active NFL defensive end to be in double-digits from 1996-99. And though he is proud of his individual records, he also knows the landmarks may someday be eclipsed by the current group of talented linemen -- most notably tackle Shaun Rogers and end James Hall.
"I just wish these guys the best of luck, because you know what? We have a chance to be really, really special," he says.
With his newfound "free" time, Porcher can devote more resources to his many business interests in Detroit: co-owner of "Seldom Blues," a jazz supper club located in the Renaissance Center; co-founder of the Detroit Football Classic, a fledgling event which captures the true essence of historically black college football; and a board member of the Super Bowl XL Host Committee, a Detroit-based organization that oversees the day-to-day activities for the city hosting the Super Bowl in February 2006.
Also, Porcher and his wife, Kimberly, are tireless fundraisers for cancer research, on behalf of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
And when he can catch his breath from all that, the father of three has plans on touring the world, especially a lengthy visit to Africa. "I'm just closing a chapter in a life. This is not the end for me," Porcher says. "And I'm OK with that."
On Dec. 26, the Lions will formally honor Porcher during the club's final home game versus Chicago.
Friday, October 22, 2004
Monday, September 27, 2004
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Monday, September 06, 2004
Reggie Swinton, David Kircus, Stephen Trejo, Avon Cobourne, Andrew Battle, Michael Young.
Our preformance during the preseason was about the same as all the other teams in the NFL since all the teams were playing 2nd and 3rd team players to see who to cut and who not to cut. So lets see if we can't play better during the season and win us a new trophy this year. Go Lions!
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Date Opponent Time/Result
Aug. 14 Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 21 at Cleveland 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 28 at Baltimore 8:00 p.m.
Sept. 2 Buffalo 8:00 p.m.
Date Opponent Result
Sept. 12 at Chicago 1:00 p.m.
Sept. 19 Houston 1:00 p.m.
Sept. 26 Philadelphia 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 3 Open Date
Oct. 10 at Atlanta 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 17 Green Bay 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 24 at New York Giants 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Dallas 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 7 Washington 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 14 at Jacksonville 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 21 at Minnesota 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 25 Indianapolis 12:30 p.m.
Dec. 5 Arizona 1:00 p.m.
Dec. 12 at Green Bay 1:00 p.m.
Dec. 19 Minnesota 1:00 p.m.
Dec. 26 Chicago 1:00 p.m.
Jan. 2 at Tennessee 1:00 p.m.
All times are Eastern