(ALLEN PARK) - Jake Plummer completed 16 straight passes including two for touchdowns in the first half to give the Denver Broncos a 20-16 win over the Detroit Lions.
The loss was Detroit's eighteenth straight on the road, but the Lions showed some signs of fight this week that will put them in good stead heading into next week's contest against the San Francisco 49ers.
The good news? Detroit front four came to play, holding the Broncos, who were without star back Clinton Portis, to just 79 yards rushing on twenty three carries. In fact, quarterback Jake Plummer was the Broncos leading rusher with 40 yards on six scrambles out of the pocket. However, it was Plummer's fumble deep in Lions territory that nearly changed the outcome of the game.
With the Broncos leading 14-10, Plummer was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled for an apparent first down. However, the ball came loose before Plummer was touched and Lions nickel corner Jimmy Wyrick scooped up the ball and appeared to stumble 89 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown for Detroit.
Since the play occurred in the last two minutes of the half, it was reviewed by the replay booth and it was confirmed that Plummer did indeed fumble prior to being touched, but that Wyrick was shoved, as he was stumbling, by Broncos receiver Ed McCafferty, nullifying the touchdown and giving the Lions the ball on their own 18-yard line.
Detroit was unable to move the ball and settled for a half time tie.
Detroit has another opportunity taken away when center Dominic Raiola was penalized twice for chop block penalties. Raiola said he was "trying to be more aggressive" but the penalties took away an opportunity for Detroit to move into position for the go-ahead field goal. The second occurred after a pass completion to the Broncos 37-yard line.
On several pass plays Harrington appeared to grimace as he threw the ball, a clear indication that his dislocated ring finger on his throwing hand is still bothering him. At various points in the game, Harrington had balls 'sail' on him and overthrew open receivers. All these are point to a problem on his throwing hand. Lions head coach Steve Mariucci thought as much.
"I thought he threw the ball high a few times and I talked to him on the sidelines about it," said Mariucci. "I wondered if it was his finger and he said it wasn't. I'd certainly like to complete more passes, but only he knows if it's hurting him."
Harrington matched Plummer's two touchdown passes, going 15-for-33 with no interceptions and a 79.9 passer rating, his best effort in the last three weeks.
However the second year signal caller reacted to the criticism he had been receiving from fans and the media for his seeming "lassiez-faire" attitude toward the mounting losses. "Last week the questions directed at me were, 'Why are you so happy? Why are you so up? Why do you always seem like it doesn't bother you?' " Harrington said. "You know that it does. It bothers me and it bothers everybody out here because losing sucks. It's not fun, you never want to lose. But you know what? We're not going to quit."
Rookie Charles Rogers beautiful leaping catch of an under thrown ball over corner Deltha O'Neal had given the Lions a short-lived 7-0 lead before Plummer directed his two first quarter touchdown drives. Jason Hanson added a 53-yard field goal.
Defensively Dre' Bly continues to be the glue that holds together the Detroit defense. Bly's nine tackles led the team. This is the first game that Bly did not record an interception. Earl Holmes had his best game of the season with seven tackles and a sack of Plummer. James Hall and Shawn Rogers each had a sack of Plummer. Detroit's three-sack outing is its best by far this year.
Rogers caught four passes 62 yards including his third TD catch of the season. Shawn Bryson and Olandis Gary combined for 115 yards rushing in Detroit's best rushing outing of the season. Bryson toted the load carrying 13 times for 73 yards, a 5.6 per carry average. Gary chipped in with 42 yards on six carries.
Bradford Banta's poor snap on an extra point cost the Lions briefly a chance to tie the ball game at 17. Banta's snap was low and kicker Jason Hanson tried to punch it up and through but holder John Jett decided to try to run with it at the last minute and the try failed.
Detroit (1-3) next heads to 3Com Park for an emotional return to the San Francisco Bay Area for Steve Mariucci, who was the head coach of the 49ers(1-3) for six seasons before being fired by owner John York.