(DETROIT, MI) - Peyton Manning threw for six touchdowns and the Lions contributed four lost fumbles in a 41-9 drubbing at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts.
Detroit benched starting quarterback Joey Harrington late in the third quarter in favor of Mike McMahon. McMahon played well, completing 14 of 23 for 156 yards but was hampered by poor field position and a calamity of errors.
For Detroit, the loss was one of the worst ever on Thanksgiving Day as Manning played the role of a server, slicing and dicing the Lions with the greatest of ease en route to a record day.
The worst part was Detroit never laid a hand on Manning. Their vaunted pass rush was non-existent despite the Colts playing without three starting offensive linemen (Tupe Peko, Jeff Saturday and Rick DeMulling)
Indianapolis started off with a bang. Manning hit receiver Reggie Wayne for 30 yards on the first play and never looked back. Detroit's secondary was vicitimized early and often with the biggest culprits being safety Brock Marion and corner Fernando Bryant.
Manning drove the Colts into Lions' territory before hitting No. 3 receiver Brandon Stokley from 4-yards out to give the Colts a 7-0 lead.
The Lions got a decent performance early from Harrington who responded thanks to the strong effort of rookie running back Kevin Jones, who rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries. Harrington drove the Lions to the 3-yard line, but missed an open Stephen Alexander in the end zone. Detroit settled for a 20-yard field goal from Jason Hanson to cut the lead to 7-3.
The Colts answered with a 7-play drive, that covered 60 yards in just 2:56 thanks to a boatload of unforced errors by Detroit. Marion left Stokley uncovered and Manning hit him from 12-yards out to give the Colts a 13-3 lead. Indianapolis only needed to drive 60 yards after Hanson's kickoff went out of bounds at the Colts 5-yard line. Dre Bly got called for the first of several holding calls and the Lions got hit with 12 men on the field
Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers blocked Mike Vanderjagt's conversion attempt and it appeared Detroit had some momentum. Kevin Jones blasted through the Colts secondary for a 40-yard jaunt. But rookie Roy Williams, who had momentarily separated from corner Jason David, inexplicably attempted a one-handed grab on a low pass by Harrington which he dropped. Detroit settled for another Hanson field goal, this time from 34-yards to cut the lead to 13-6.
Detroit forced a Hunter Smith punt and Kevin Jones got the Lions going with a 21-yard romp through the Indy front line. The Lions drove to the Colts 30 before the drive stalled and Hanson missed a 48-yard attempt wide left.
On Detroit's next possession, linebacker Rob Morris came free and sacked Harrington forcing a fumble that was recovered by Monte Reagor. Manning then connected with, guess who?, yes, Brandon Stokley, running free again against an overmatched Brock Marion for his third touchdown catch of the game, a 25-yarder and the rout was on.
With :50 left in the half, Lions head coach Steve Mariucci contributed to the gaffe fest when Harrington completed a short pass to Shawn Bryson. Mariucci allowed nearly 20 seconds to run off the clock rather than use a timeout. When Detroit marched to the Colts 14 on a 23-yard Harrington to Bryson completion, they had on :04 left and had to settle for a 32-yard Hanson field goal.
They went into the locker room with two timeouts still on the board. Mariucci seemd unaware of the situation. "If it ran down 14 seconds, that's probably too much," admitted Mariucci. "Is it my call, yes it is, I'm responsible for timeouts."
Things got even worse when pro bowl kick returner to be Eddie Drummond was lost for the season on the opening kickoff of the second half. "Eddie coming out and getting hurt on the first kickoff of the second half was tough to swallow," said Mariucci.
The Lions appeared to lose steam and mentally "checked out" at that point. On a 3rd and 2 play, defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson came free but missed the tackle on running back Edgerrin James instead, pulling his facemask. With new life, the Colts Manning hit Marvin Harrison to increase the lead to 34-9. After an exchange of punts, Reggie Swinton, substituting for Drummond fumble it and punter Hunter Smith recovered for Indianapolis.
Two plays later Harrison beat corner Fernando Bryant again for his second score from 35-yards out to give Indianpolis the final 41-9 lead. Mike McMahon relieved Harrington put was unable to engineer a scoring drive despite being sharp on his throws and generally playing well. Roy Williams caught an 8-yard pass for a first down but fumbled it away.
With former University of Wisconsin standout Jim Sorgi in at quarterback in relief of Manning, the Colts were content to just run out the clock.
Lions head coach Steve Mariucci said despite McMahon's strong play, that Harrington would remain the starting quarterback and McMahon would be the backup.
Lions President and GM Matt Millen was seen in the locker room meeting with several key veterans in an attempt to keep the team together.
Several players dressed quickly and exited the locker room before they could be approached by reporters. Other refused to comment on the inept performance.
Detroit has next Sunday off and has ten days to prepare for the invasion of the Arizona Cardinals in an attempt to break their current five-game losing streak.
Colts Beat Stuffing out of Lions, 41-9
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