All season Mike Williams had been waiting to get his chance to show the Lions coaches what he could do in game conditions. And now it's debatable if he'll even get another opportunity.
Williams finally got his chance in the 15th game of the season, and what he showed wasn't anything that is going to help him with a long-term escape from offensive coordinator Mike Martz's doghouse.
With the final seconds ticking off the clock and the Lions five points down against Chicago in their Christmas Eve game, quarterback Jon Kitna put his pass right where it had to be and Williams did just about everything right.
He got himself in position to make the catch, he gathered himself to go up for the ball and he timed his jump perfectly. He did everything except make the catch in front of Bears rookie defensive back Devin Hester.
"I had the ball," Williams said. "But then the securing part of it ... it was jarred out, kicked out, whatever. But regardless of how it came out, it came out."
Williams said he couldn't be sure if Hester got a hand on the ball to knock it loose or if the ball was somehow kicked as he tried to bring it in. The only thing that was obvious to one and all as the Lions absorbed their 13th loss in 15 games is that Williams, who had dropped another one or two balls earlier in the game, had not delivered on the play that would have gone a long way toward salvaging a long, frustrating season.
Williams, the Lions' first-round pick in 2005, has spent much of the 2006 season on the bench for various discretions -- real or perceived. At various times during the season, it leaked out that Martz felt he wasn't practicing hard enough, that Martz felt he was overweight, that he wasn't fast enough, that other young, inexperienced receivers gave the Lions a better chance to win.
In recent weeks, however, he at least got onto the field. In the Dec. 17 game at Green Bay, he even caught three passes for 42 yards. Before the final play of the 26-21 loss to the Bears, he had caught two passes for 22 yards.
Even before the drop, Williams' future with the Lions was uncertain. Now he
doesn't even have one play he can point to in his own defense.
Ellis Seizing The Moment
If the Lions coaches are using the final games of a wasted season as part of their player evaluation process, then rookie WR Devale Ellis has helped his cause for the 2007 season.
Although Ellis has been hampered by late-season injuries, he was impressive returning punts and kickoffs in place of injured starter Eddie Drummond in the Lions' 26-21 loss Sunday to the Bears.
Ellis, who was signed as an undrafted rookie last spring, averaged 15.3 yards on four punt returns and 23.2 on six kickoff returns against the Bears. And he turned a rookie mistake -- fielding a punt at his own 3-yard line -- into a 48-yard return.
"Everybody knows I wasn't supposed to," Ellis said. "Just a rookie mistake, being overanxious. Just wanting to make a play. It's a good thing I did (produce a big return), because if I didn't, I probably wouldn't be returning anymore."
Although coach Rod Marinelli didn't approve of Ellis starting a return from inside his own 10, he likes what he's seen of Ellis during the season.
"I think you can see he's got a little electricity to him," Marinelli said.
Drummond, a Pro Bowl returner two years ago, has struggled during the season and undoubtedly will have competition in next year's training camp, probably from Ellis.
With their sixth consecutive losing season and a 23-72 record in the six seasons under team president Matt Millen, the Lions seem to have lost their home-field advantage. At least, they lost it for their game Sunday against Chicago.
Bears Fans Invade Ford Field
Hundreds of orange-clad Bears fans somehow secured tickets for the game, and they made as much or more noise than the Lions fans at various points in the game.
"I thought we were in Chicago," WR Roy Williams said.
"I just really wanted to win that game so I could tell all those Bears fans
to shut up and go home," QB Jon Kitna said.