(DETROIT, MI) -- Watch out Kwame Kilpatrick.
If Joey Harrington has another performance like this one, he could run for mayor... and win. Outside the soldout Ford Field following Detroit's 26-21 upset win of the previous undefeated New Orleans Saints, fans gathering for an after game beverage, broke out into an impromptu chant.
"Joey, Joey, Joey."
You see, Harrington has this winning thing down pat. "That's that confidence and that guts I was talking about earlier. Doing what it takes to win a football game," said Harrington afterwards. "And I'm so proud of these guys for it."
His formula inspired Detroit to their best performance since 1999. Desmond Howard started things off right, bursting through the return wedge for 70 yards, setting the Lions up on a short field. The return led to one of four Jason Hanson field goals on the day.
Harrington's greatest sell job may have been on receiver Bill Schroeder. Schroeder, who a week ago was being lambasted by the media and the coaching staff for short arming balls and cutting off routes to avoid hits, was inspirational. His seven-catch, 78 yard and 1 touchdown catch performance before going out with yet another injury, was inspirational. The best was a lay-out in the endzone to put the Lions up 20-0.
"This feels real good, until I can play a full game. I don't know why I'm being plagued, I don't know what I did, but I have to get back to keep making those plays. That's why Detroit brought me in here and I've got to continue to do that," said Schroeder.
Give the defense some credit as well.
The Lions front seven, which was expected to carry the team, came up big with three sacks of erratic Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, including one by rookie Kalimba Edwards who also forced a fumble which was returned by defensive end James Hall 22-yards for a touchdown. "Kalimba was at the end out there in three technique," said Hall, "And he did a great job getting off the ball, beating his man, sacking and stripping the quarterback. I was able to come around and scoop it up and put it in [the end zone]."
The win is a credit to the leadership ability of Harrington and embattled head coach Marty Mornhinweg, who was thought to be on the hot seat until owner William Clay Ford, Sr.'s vote of confidence earlier in the week. The Lions have played hard in every game this season including the blowout loss to the surprising Carolina Panthers. Harrington was seen on the sidelines speaking to his offensive line in a very animated manner. The line appeared to respond, allowing zero sacks of the rookie signal caller.
The special teams did their part, outplaying the Saints unit. The trio of Desmond Howard, Larry Foster and Az-Zahir Hakim combined for over 130 return yards, while John Jett pinned the Saints inside their 20 twice including one at the 2-yard line and averaged over 45 yards per punt.
Chris Claiborne, still irked by the Lions courtship of free agent middle linebacker Greg Beikert, appears on his way out of Detroit at the end of the season. Claiborne made references to his impending free agent status at season's end. The only remaining player on the roster from the Lions 1999 draft made a nice play, cutting in front of former Lion David Sloan to intercept a Brooks pass and deflecting two others.
Detroit now has the bye week to savor a extremely nice win and could find themselves in the role of a road favorite when they travel to Minnesota. Interestingly, the game could be a Monday night affair if the Minnesota Twins host a afternoon playoff game next Sunday.
IF the Twins are in the second round of the playoffs, they'll be at home on Sunday and they get the dome per contract. In that case, the game would be moved to Monday night, but broadcast on FOX and only in the Detroit and Minnesota markets. The rest of the country would watch the normal ABC MNF game.