Defense strong, Offense poor; Ravens 12-Lions 6

Lions fans got to see with their own two eyes what the media sees--a four to six win team last night, as Detroit lost their opener 12-6 to Baltimore. While the Lions defense was strong, throttling the Ravens offensively, their offensive line continued to play down to its reputation as the worst in football, allowing eight sacks for -60 yards. Still, there was Joey Harrington.

(BALTIMORE, MD)--Going into their first preseason game, Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg had some definite objectives he wanted to acccomplish. When the game ended, few, if any of those objectives were accomplished as Detroit lost its preseason opener 12-6 to the Baltimore Ravens.

Mornhinweg couldn't be happy with the play of his starting quarterback Mike McMahon. In fact, based on yesterday's performance, rookie Joey Harrington looked to be definitely ahead of McMahon. McMahon seemed tenative and at times lost. It showed in his 8-for-20 performance, mustering just 65 yards and one interceptions.

Mornhinweg voiced his disapproval of the offense's poor production. "Offensively, that was the poorest. That's ridiculous," he said.

Harrington was sharp early on, but bogged down when the Ravens showed blitz and disguised their coverages. Harrington finished 12-of-21 for 117 yards, but threw two costly interceptions, including the GLI (game losing interception).

The two teams traded field goals and went into the final period deadlocked at six. That's when Baltimore's punter Dave Zastudil pinned Detroit inside their one-yard line.

Harrington, passing out of his endzone, tried to find a receiver over the middle. Instead, he was picked off by Baltimore defender Will Demps, who took it in to give Baltimore the final margin of victory.

Detroit mustered just two field goals for the night and 166 yards of offense.

Running back James Stewart said it best. "We looked all right, but we've got a long way to go. We've got to shake the rust off."

By the looks of things, Detroit has a whole lot of rust to shake off. They did see a more agressive and effective defense. This unit was the bright spot for Detroit. They showed the ability to stop opponents from running the ball, limiting Baltimore to just 78 yards rushing, a respectable performance. The Ravens were held to 177 yards passing as well.

Robert Porcher was the standout of the unit, getting four quarterback pressures in just over a quarter of play. The safeties look much improved over 2001, as free safety Brian Walker picked off a Chris Redman pass and returned it 51 yards to set up one of Hanson's field goals.

But if the defense was the silver lining, the play of the offensive line was the dark cloud. Detroit's offensive front continues to play down to its reputation as the worst offfensive front in football.

Baltimore, minus super linebacker Peter Boulware and sack specialist Michael McCrary, still sacked Lions quarterbacks eight times on the night for minus 60 yards.

The Lions can't continue to have their quarterbacks hammered and expect them to make it through the full 2002 season. The Lions have to address their weaknesses in the guard position and fix them if they intend to be successful this year.

PAWS FOR THOUGHT: The backup running back job is still wide open. Neither Jonas Lewis or James Mungro distinguished themselves in last night's contest. Lamont Warren seems to have the job by default.

Avieon Cason seems to have the 3rd down back spot locked up, accounting for 131 all purpose yards including 66 yards receiving. If Luke Staley can't play this season, don't be surprised if Detroit watches the waiver wire, looking for someone to come free to help solidify depth in the offensive backfield.

The Lions corners played decently. Eric Davis and Todd Lyght showed experiences counts for something, but the play of rookie Andre Goodman was the highlight of the unit.

What a difference good safety play makes. Brian Walker and Corey Harris brought immediate stability to the middle of the Lions defense.

While Chris Claiborne struggled to handle trap blocking, both safeties stepped it up. The Lions defense will look even better when they get the best defensive tackle in football, Shaun Rogers back into the fold.

ROOKIE WATCH: John Owens appears to have solidified his position on the roster, but what about fellow rookie Matt Murphy? So far, Murphy appears to be in a pitched battle with slow afoot, but gamer John Waerig for the final tight end spot. Brad Banta has one position locked, because of his ability to long snap.

Kalimba Edward was impressive, putting heat on Baltimore quarterback Jeff Blake and sniffing out a couple of draw plays. He's a keeper.

The microscope was on Lions 5th round pick Chris Cash of USC. Cash was beaten often, but rebounded to make some great plays as well. Detroit will likely save a roster spot for both Cash and fellow rookie Andre Goodman who was outstanding. Goodman still has a shot at a starting position.

Despite throwing the game losing interception, Joey Harrington is clearly ahead of Mike McMahon right now. Harrington shows pocket awareness and the ability to read defenses.

Harrington admitted though, there were some things he need to work on. "I learned how precise you have to be," he said. "In college, there's a little bit of leeway. Here I have to be on time, precise -- and I need to do it at the exact moment."

Harrington also learned from his costly interception. "I made a rookie mistake," Harrington said. "I took extra little steps on that one. Instead of pulling up in five, I hit six and seven. Once I let go of it, I saw the guy breaking."

He'll learn, he'll get better and he'll be the guy who leads Detroit back to the playoffs.....eventually.

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