Lions Self-Destruct in 24-14 Loss

Joey Harrington will get the blame after a four interception performance that resulted in a 30.3 passer rating. But at least as much to blame was a receiving corps that didn't fight for the football, stopped routes early and played lethargically, leading to at least two of the four picks.

(ALLEN PARK) – The frustration was evident on the face of Lions quarterback Joey Harrington as his miserable second season got worse. Harrington had thrown his fourth interception of the day and as it was being returned for a touchdown by Vikings corner Brian Williams, Harrington was seething.

He knew what his line would say, four interceptions. He knew that he would be blamed for arguably the worst loss the Lions have suffered this season.

Down just three points with 2:47 left in the game – an eternity by football standards – Detroit would give up 14 more points on two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), 17 points all totaled in just :43 seconds and just like that the road losing streak would continue.

This would be the team's 22nd consecutive road, likely en-route to the all time NFL record for road losses.

But he also knew he couldn't say what really happened.

His receivers quit on him.

On his first interception, thrown early in the second quarter, the Lions were running a play which called for receiver Bill Schroeder to run a slant route. That means that Schroeder needed to cut inside the defender to protect the football and his quarterback. Instead, Schroeder merely turned inside, allowing Viking corner Brian Williams to beat him for inside position on the route. That killed a Lion drive although the Vikings did not score on the possession.

More damaging was the crossing route run by Az-Zahir Hakim in the fourth quarter with the Vikings up 10-7. Hakim, who was having a decent game up to that point, knew that the Vikings would 'pin their ears back' to get to Harrington. The Lions were in their two-minute drill and Minnesota understood Detroit would be throwing nearly every play without the threat of a run game.

Under heavy pressure Harrington read the hot receiver, Hakim, on the crossing route. If the pass is completed Hakim has a chance to turn the corner for a big gain.

Inexplicably Hakim quit on the route, stopping momentarily and then trying to pick it up again. The timing of the play was lost, Harrington couldn't take back the throw that was right where it was supposed to be, and where Hakim wasn't.

Vikings corner Corey Chavous though, didn't quit on the route, he picked it off and the ball game was over.

Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci may not have seen what happened in both of those instances right away from the sidelines. Mariucci sent Harrington, frustration and all, right back in to finish the ballgame. He told Harrington to "finish strong" and "go make some first downs."

Mariucci knows the Lions won't win without Harrington getting better and better each ball game. But by now he's seen the tape, he saw the Lions' receivers quitting on routes and he knows the Lions won't win with this receiving corps. And David Kircus, who was supposed to energize the receiving corps? He dropped a catchable ball for a first down early on and was not a factor, fitting isn't it?

This season is lost for Detroit.

This cast of misfit characters assembled by Lions president and general manager Matt Millen appear headed for another "less than five" win season, their third in a row under his regime. While Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr. said a few weeks ago he felt the Lions had turned the corner, what must he be thinking now?

I'll give Millen credit for one thing, he's cleaned up most of the mistakes he made in the first two years at the helm. His front office hires are gone, his personnel staff hires are gone and best of all, Marty Mornhinweg is gone.

After watching the tape, here's betting perhaps Millen's worst player related mistake of all will be corrected this off-season. Bill Schroeder and Az-Zahir Hakim, who were supposed to replace 1,000-yard receiver Johnnie Morton, will also likely be gone at season's end.

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