(ATLANTA, GA)--It's official. The Lions now have I-75 eyes. Maybe it was the trip down south to Atlanta that did it. But clearly the Lions were not paying attention after the first quarter.
Mistake after mistake, miscue after miscue, it all fell apart for the Lions in Atlanta's 36-15 win over Detroit. Falcons' quarterback Michael Vick threw for 300 yards for the first time in his career going 20-of-38 for 337 and two touchdowns. Quentin McCord shattered his previous best three catch game, grabbing seven balls for 182 yards and a touchdown and the Falcons defense harassed Mike McMahon into a terrible 11-of-33 for 149 yard, three interception performance.
Making matters worse, James Stewart, who needed just 38 yards to reach 1,000 was able to total just 34 on 12 carries while his counterpart, Warrick Dunn, rushed 30 times for 132 yards and a touchdown.
This loss was a total team effort. First, let's start with the penalties. A personal foul penalty on Kelvin Pritchett kept Atlanta on the field after Vick's pass on 3rd-and-6 went incomplete. With new life, Atlanta drove to the Detroit 5-yard line before settling for the game's opening score, a 23-yard Jay Feely field goal. Feely would put up four more field goals on the day to account for 15 of Atlanta's 36 points.
Andre Goodman's face mask penalty was a black mark on what was an otherwise decent game in his second start as a pro. Goodman's foul tacked an additional 15 yards onto a 13 yard Vick-to-McCord completion and led to another 23-yarder by Feely.
How about special teams? While Eddie Drummond continues to make a case for himself as
Detroit's permanent kick returner, posting 178 yards on returns including an 88 yarder,
Detroit's Jason Hanson missed another field goal attempt, this one from 44 yards away
killing a early Lions drive.
Then the mistakes.
Mike McMahon pass intended for Scotty Anderson was tipped and intercepted by Ashley Ambrose just before the half ended. Seven plays later, Vick connected with McCord to give Atlanta a 13-0 halftime lead. After the third Feely field goal made the score 16-0, McMahon was intercepted for the second time by Jarod Bolden at the Detroit 44. Bolden returned it 22 yards to set up Atlanta at the Detroit 22-yard line leading to another Atlanta field goal and a 19-0 lead. Atlanta increased the mark to 22-0 after Feely connected on his final field goal of the day, a 39-yarder score.
That's when Drummond supplied a spark, returning Feely's kickoff 88 yards to the Falcons 15-yard line. After being stopped on three straight attempts from the Atlanta one, McMahon rolled left and appeared to have room to score, but stopped and while being tackled by Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking, simply shoveled the ball into the air and James Stewart was able to corral it in the endzone to give Detroit a laughable score to cut the Falcon advantage to 22-8 after a successful two point conversion pass to Bill Schroeder.
On the ensuing possession, Atlanta's Bob Christian was knocked unconscious on a seemingly harmless hit by Barrett Green. Detroit's Andre Goodman recovered and ran it to the Falcons 15. McMahon hit Aveion Cason in the endzone on the very next play and suddenly Detroit was within 22-15.
With all the momentum and emotion on their side, inexplicably, the wheels came off for Detroit. With the Falcons facing 3rd-and-10 at their own 34, Vick threw long catching Lions free safety Brian Walker out of position. Walker interference penalty gave the Falcons the ball on Detroit's 28-yard line. It took the Falcons seven more plays to get into the Lions endzone as Warrick Dunn scored from 3 yards out and suddenly it was 29-15.
Detroit's McMahon was intercepted on the ensuing possession at the Lions 25. Vick hit Brian Finneran from 34 yards for the final score.
For Walker, it was a miserable game. Despite his seven tackles, his face mask penalty and pass interference penalty led directly to two Falcon scores. McMahon's day wasn't much better. After speaking of 'auditioning' for the other 31 teams in the league, his three pick performance isn't the stuff of legends.
This team appeared to be a team resigned to losing and simply playing out the string. Instead of making progress in year two of the Millen Mornhingweg regime, Detroit (3-12) appears to be regressing. Mercifully for Lions fans, this nightmare of a season ends next Sunday with the appearance of the Minnesota Vikings(5-10) at Ford Field next Sunday.