(ALLEN PARK) - One day Joey Harrington may be a very good NFL quarterback, but right
now, he is not.
Harrington threw two more costly turnovers that the San Francisco 49ers turned into 14 points and a 24-17 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday at Candlestick Park. He finished the game 19-of-35 with one touchdown and a dismal 56.8 passer rating.
Harrington's first turnover occurred just two plays into the Lions first possession. Corner Ahmad Plummer stepped in front of Harrington's pass intended for Charles Rogers deep in Detroit territory at the 27-yard line and returned it to the Detroit 23. Six plays later San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia found his nemesis Terrell Owens from 6-yards out to give San Francisco a 7-0 lead. Owen Pochman added a 48-yard field goal to up the lead to 10-0.
Garcia then engineered a 13-play drive hitting A. Walker from 14 yards out to give San Francisco their only touchdown drive of the day and a 17-0 lead.
Harrington attempted to explain the play.
"We had a 'man' route on the front side (of the defense) which they locked down
and a zone based on concept on the back side. The corner just slid in - he didn't have any
threat outside - and I didn't see him and he slid inside on one of our inside routes which
they hadn't shown [previously]. Maybe it's something they game planned for or maybe it was
something the guy just reacted to, but either way, he stepped in there and I didn't see
Detroit caught a break when Harrington's pass intended for Charles Rogers was tipped into the air and caught on the fly by Mikhael Ricks for a 35-yard game. Jason Hanson kicked a 28-yard field goal to get the Lions on the board at 17-3. On the 49ers next possession, Garcia was picked off by Dre' Bly, his fourth of the season. The Lions converted the drive when Harrington found Ricks from 6-yards out to get within 17-10 at the half.
With the Lions inside the 49ers 35-yard line and a chance to tie, Harrington had Charles Rogers open down the left sideline but had his overthrown ball picked off by Tony Parrish. Parrish rambled 50 yards with the return before being pushed out of bounds by Olandis Gary. Just three plays later, Garcia ran in from 1 yard out to give San Francisco a 24-10 lead and for all intents and purposes the ball game.
"I probably should have put a little more zip on. It hung up in the air a little bit longer than I expected and their guy [Parrish] just came over and made a good play, " Harrington admitted.
Detroit's Olandis Gary finished a 9-play drive to get within 24-17 but the Lions could get no closer. Harrington did not complete a pass in Detroit final two series throwing four straight incompletions as Detroit went "three-and-out" in both possessions before San Francisco killed the clock.
"I put the defense in some a tough position a couple of times. They did a very good job for most of the day keeping the 49er offense slowed down, but when you give them a short field like that its tough for a defense to work. Combined with a couple of ill-advised bad timing penalties, those things will bite you."
It was the Lions who got bit in a game that could have gone the other way. Detroit squandered another change to take a winnable road game away from the opposition and loses its 19 straight road game.
While 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia struggled just as much as Harrington did, it was Harrington's two turnovers to Garcia's one. Detroit scored seven off Garcia's turnover, San Francisco scored fourteen off Harrington's turnovers. The seven-point differential was the margin of victory for San Francisco.
Mariucci and the Lions (1-4) will now have the bye week to work on the same old story, "getting things corrected." His first order of business needs to be to pounding into Harrington's head the need to make good decisions and take care of the football. Too often Harrington throws the ball into double and triple coverage. His two interceptions could have easily been four or five.
While the team overall is playing better on the road, the result is still the same; another road game, another road loss.