The Detroit Lions head coach has referencing his team's devastating 17-13 loss at Tampa Bay Sunday afternoon. After a 90-yard drive put the Lions' offense into scoring position with less than 10 seconds remaining, a dubious touchdown reversal -- followed by two more incomplete passes -- sealed Detroit's fate.
"What a game, a physical game," he continued. "We wanted to be physical, in the trenches, at the line of scrimmage, and I thought we were. I thought, for the most part, we won that battle quite a bit of the time today."
But in the end, Tampa Bay had won the war. As the Buccaneers went on to notch their fourth win of the season (the team's best start since 1997), the Lions fell to 1-2. In 2004, the Lions had a penchant for not finishing a game, making Sunday's loss perhaps the most difficult of the season.
"I'm tired of (losing)," said Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington, who completed 15 of his 27 passes for 137 yards. Eight of which came on the final drive. "We work too hard to lose like that. We did everything we should have. We put such a great last drive together to come up short.
Lions' offensive tackle Kelly Butler expresses his disappointment after loss.
While Mariucci noted his team's disappointment, he was optimistic about the Lions overall performance. With the continued struggles of the running game (Kevin Jones finished with just 38 yards on 12 carries) promoting a sluggish offense, the Lions still played well enough to win.
On the defensive side of the ball, Detroit harrassed Bucs' quarterback Brian Griese into four turnovers, including three interceptions. But they also gave up the big play, including an 80-yard completion between Griese and Tampa receiver Joey Galloway.
"We know half of the games in this league are decided by eight points or less, a touchdown or less, half the games," Mariucci said. "And this was no exception. It came down to the wire with two real good football teams."
Leaving the field, Mariucci had a brief exchange with long-time friend and Buccaneers' head coach Jon Gruden.
"In a friendly way... I said, ‘hey we'll see you in the playoffs.'" said Mariucci. "That's the determined attitude that this team has, to get back into, to play a team like that again in the playoffs, because they're a good football team, a very good football team.
"The season's going to go a little bit like this. And the teams that stick together, keep fighting in the NFC North, that's the team that's going to walk out of the desert in December. The way these guys work, I feel good about our chances. I'm proud of these guys.
Mariucci continued: "There's no moral victories. That's not going to happen. They feel sick in that locker room because we thought we had it. We thought we won it, but it was not to be. So, on we go. We swallow hard, keep fighting and get ready for the next game. And we'll do that."
The Lions return home next Sunday to host the Baltimore Ravens. Kick-off is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.