Eye on the Lions

The Lions were a snap away from still being serious contenders for the final wild card spot in the NFC.

Don Muhlbach, the Lions' rookie long snapper from Texas A&M, still had a job Monday.

In fact, coach Steve Mariucci even had kind words to say about Muhlbach after his fatally flawed delivery of the ball that was supposed to give the Lions a tie -- and then overtime -- in their 28-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

"I'm sure he had a rough night," Mariucci said. "I thought the players were good with him. He feels as badly as anybody, believe me.

"He's a good snapper, he's a youngster, he's going to be a terrific snapper in this league. So, on we go."

The Lions signed Muhlbach, who had been in camp with the Baltimore Ravens, on Nov. 9 after a hamstring injury to Jody Littleton. Team president Matt Millen referred to him as "the Nolan Ryan of long snappers" because of the speed of his delivery.

Until the final eight seconds of the game Sunday against the Vikings, he had performed flawlessly on both punts and kicks from placement.

With the game on the line, however, Muhlbach bounced a snap back to holder Nick Harris. Although Harris is usually good at saving the play -- even if the snap is not perfect -- he couldn't get a handle on this one, which meant kicker Jason Hanson was unable to kick the extra point to send the game into overtime.

Muhlbach's teammates and coaches gave him as much consolation as they could muster, but he was obviously devastated by his miscue.

"Nobody ever knows you 'til you mess up," he said.

--QB Joey Harrington apparently has put the Lions' quarterback controversy to bed for the final time this season. After several weeks of subpar production resulting in conjecture regarding his job security, Harrington completed 25 of 44 passes for a career-high 361 yards and two touchdowns. He can further solidify his hold on the job with a strong finish in the remaining two games, at home against Chicago and in the season finale at Tennessee.

--RB Kevin Jones can reach the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie if he can average just 31 yards in the Lions' two remaining games -- at home against Chicago and at Tennessee. After back-to-back games of 196 yards against Arizona and 156 against Green Bay, he was held to 79 yards on 19 carries by the Minnesota Vikings.

--RB Shawn Bryson continues to play a strong, productive role as the No. 2 RB behind Lions rookie starter Kevin Jones. Bryson is averaging 5.5 yards on 43 rushing attempts and has caught 31 passes (third best on the team) for 235 yards. In addition, he is valuable in passing situations for his blitz-pickup ability.

--S Terrence Holt got 33 plays at SS in the Lions' 28-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and might get additional playing time in the two remaining games. After a strong rookie season in 2003, Holt has had limited playing time this year. He is projected as the FS successor to Brock Marion but shared time at SS on Sunday with Bracy Walker.

--WR Roy Williams isn't likely to get 1,000 yards in his rookie season but -- barring injury -- he is likely to get well above 800. Williams, who has been hampered by an early season ankle injury, broke his six-game scoring drought with two TD catches against Minnesota. With two Lions games remaining, he has 722 yards and seven TDs for the season.

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