ALLEN PARK - Even after falling behind early 10-0, the Detroit Lions had a chance to get back into the football game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. But in a three minute span, Lions quarterback Joey Harrington committed two turnovers that doomed the team to defeat and sent them to the brink of playoff elimination at just the midway portion of the season. Here's a look at the key plays that turned the game in the Vikings favor.
3. Illegal touching: With Detroit backed up at their own 21-yard line, punter Nick Harris got off a booming 53-yarder that was downed by the Lions at the Minnesota 26-yard line, but the team was called for illegal touching and Harris had to rekick. Harris boomed another 58 yarder but this time the Vikings Mewelde Moore fielded the punt and returned it 30 yards to the Detroit 44 a difference of 30 yards in field position. Eight plays later the Vikings cashed in on a Brad Johnson to Darren Bennett 6-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-0.
2. Harrington's fumble: After back-to-back dropped passes by Williams and Vines, Harrington was sacked on a blitz by Minnesota's Brian Williams, fumbled and the Vikings Kevin Williams recovered at the Detroit 20-yard and returned to the Detroit 14. Three plays later Ciatrick Fason dived in from three yards out and the Vikings had a 17-0 lead.
1. Harrington's high throw: Two plays later, Harrington threw a screen pass intended for Artose Pinner too high and the ball was intercepted by Antoine Winfield. Winfield returned it to the Detroit 11-yard line. It took just three plays for the Vikings to score when Johnson hit Nate Burleson who made the kind of circus catch Detroit expected from its three first round receivers. With the score now 24-0, the game was for all intents and purposes, over.
WHAT IT MEANS:
The game likely cemented the end of Joey Harrington's career in Detroit. Without Harrington's turnovers, Detroit could have made a run at the Vikings, but the miscues doomed Detroit to yet another division loss they couldn't afford. Now two games behind Chicago (5-3) and with three division losses, Detroit is virtually out of contention.
WHERE THEY STAND:
With Garcia's availability iffy for this Sunday, Detroit might be forced to go with Joey Harrington at quarterback again on Sunday against Arizona. Detroit wouldn't turn to rookie Dan Orlovsky this early would they? If Harrington is ineffective, why not roll the dice with the rookie to see if you catch lightning in a bottle, ala Ben Rothelisberger and Kyle Orton?
Receiver Charles Rogers has planted himself firmly in coach Mariucci doghouse and rightfully so. After hurting the team with a four-game substance abuse suspension, Rogers turned in a tepid week's worth of practice and Mooch responded by sending Rogers home. If things don't get better, a suspension could follow.
Receiver Roy Williams might be right behind Rogers in the kennel. Williams had to be coaxed by GM Matt Millen and Mariucci to even take the field. Williams participated in just three plays before hitting the skids. He is now into week six of recovery from a pulled muscle. No one knows how a player feels but the player, but whispers of malingering and not being a gamer are being heard when it comes to Williams. Football's a tough sport. What good are you to your teammates when you can't play over a pulled muscle. It might be unfair, but Williams' injury is the subject of rolled eyes among some in the locker room.
Don't look now, but Scottie Vines appears to be entrenched as the team's #1 receiver. Vines nine catch, 109 yard performance raised eyebrows across the league. Vines' effort shows how a little heart coupled with a lot of determination and effort, can go a long way in the league.
Mike Williams injured his foot and the fear is it is broken. Despite his drops and lack of conditioning early on, Williams will at least show up and give it a try. Williams could be lost for a substantial portion of the season if tests reveal a break. Detroit will have to work Troy Edwards more into the offense this Sunday.