Battle-tested Lions Carving New Identity

ALLEN PARK - Four games into the season, the Lions might be finding an identity, and with it, something they can hang their hat on in the NFC North - physical toughness.

Recent Lions teams have not always exhibited that quality, but they emerged from their 35-17 victory over Baltimore feeling a little better about themselves in that particular category.

"The thing I'm most proud of these guys for would be two things - our physical toughness against a team whose reputation is just that, being a very physical, intimidating sort of team, with Pro Bowlers galore ... and I thought we brought a great physical toughness to that game," coach Steve Mariucci said.

"The other thing - probably more important - was our mental toughness in a game that could have gotten away from us, or from either team, for that matter."

The Lions felt the Ravens wanted to intimidate them, and when Detroit wouldn't be intimidated, the Ravens lost their composure. The result was 21 penalties against Baltimore and just seven against the Lions.

The Lions will have plenty of opportunities to show their toughness in the immediate future, with a game coming up Sunday against Carolina followed by a road game against the Cleveland Browns and a rematch with the Chicago Bears, who gave them a 38-6 thrashing in the Sept. 18 meeting at Soldier Field.

With the offense struggling and the defense having its ups and downs, it would be comforting to Mariucci to know he could count on his team to at least play tough.

"When we're going to play against a physical team our plan is not to out-finesse them," Mariucci said. "Our plan is to outhit them. So when you play the No. 1 and No. 2 defense in the league, we're going to run at them, we're going to see who's stronger."

They came close against the No. 1 defense in a 17-13 loss at Tampa Bay on Oct. 2 and pulled it off against the Ravens' No. 2 defense. At least, it's a start.

PLAYER NOTES
--WR Roy Williams, the Lions second-leading receiver with 12 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown in the first four games, will wait for results of an ultrasound on his strained left quadriceps muscle before determining whether he will be able to practice this week or whether he has any chance of playing Sunday against Carolina.

--FB Cory Schlesinger will get more work in practice this week but Lions coach Steve Mariucci said Schlesinger would still be limited. He is coming off a broken left fibula in the season opener and might still be a week away from returning to game action.

--PR/KOR Eddie Drummond has a bruised left shin and a hyperextended knee that make his availability questionable for the Lions' game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Drummond is off to a slow start, averaging just 4.5 yards on 11 punt returns and 21.4 yards on 10 kickoff returns.

--QB Jeff Garcia will get more work in practice this week as he continues his recovery from a broken left fibula and badly sprained ankle. The Lions backup quarterback is not expected to play Sunday against Carolina, however.

--DE James Hall is to see a specialist this week to determine the severity of the groin injury that has kept him all except a handful of plays in the past two games.

--LS Don Muhlbach is wearing a brace while he recovers from a sprained knee and it appears unlikely he will be able to play in the Lions' game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

--QB Joey Harrington will be coming off a season-low 10 completions in 23 pass attempts for 97 yards against the Baltimore Ravens when the Lions take on the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at Ford Field. For the season, Harrington has completed only 51.3 percent of his passes, has four touchdowns and seven interceptions, and has a passer rating of 52.7.

--RB Kevin Jones has shown occasional flashes but little consistent production as the Lions continue to struggle to establish their running game. Jones is averaging less than 3 yards per carry with 205 yards on 71 rushes in four games.

He has scored three rushing touchdowns, however.

--RB Shawn Bryson, who struggled with a heel injury the previous two games, seems to have regained his speed and effectiveness. His 77-yard touchdown run on his only touch against Baltimore was the Lions' longest scoring play of the season.

--WR Charles Rogers, who had just five receptions 77 yards in the Lions' first three games, has three games remaining on his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse program.

--WR Kevin Johnson is the Lions' leading receiver with 13 catches for 110 yards in four games. He is also their only available healthy veteran receiver. Charles Rogers is serving a four-game suspension and Roy Williams has an injured quadriceps.

--TE Marcus Pollard has become one of the Lions' most productive receivers with nine receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown but he has had at least one drop in three of the team's four games this season.

--DE Kalimba Edwards has a team-leading four quarterback sacks, just a half sack less than he had in the entire 2004 season. Edwards has had three sacks in the past two games while filling in for injured RDE James Hall.

--CB R.W. McQuarters, the nickel back in the Lions' defensive packages, took over the punt and kick return duties when Eddie Drummond was injured Sunday against Baltimore. McQuarters also volunteered to help out as a WR while the team is shorthanded in that area due to injuries and the substance abuse suspension of WR Charles Rogers.


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