One step at a time, wide receiver Mike Williams is trying to work his way back into the good graces of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and, thereby, into the Lions offense.
He started with a couple of good weeks on the practice field and — with the help of injuries that sidelined wide receivers Devale Ellis and Eddie Drummond — Williams got his most extensive playing time of the season in the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game against Miami.
The net result: His first reception of the season — a seven-yarder that helped set up a first-quarter field goal.
Coach Rod Marinelli noted that Williams also delivered an effective block but, overall, he was noncommittal when asked to evaluate the second-year receiver's performance.
That apparently means that Williams has no assurance that he will not be back on the inactive list Sunday for the Lions' game at New England, a situation with which he has become familiar in his second NFL season since being taken by the Lions with the 10th pick in the 2005 draft.
Williams got off to a bad start in his rookie season under Steve Mariucci with a weight problem and a record of reporting late to work. But he was optimistic as he started his second season, under a new coach in a new offense.
As it developed, however, the 6-foot-5 receiver continued to struggle with his weight. The Lions reportedly asked him to come in at 220 but he had a problem getting that low, and the coaching staff was not impressed with his work ethic.
As a result, while Martz has paraded a handful of receivers through the practice facility in seach of a productive No. 3 receiver, Williams has watched all except three of the first 11 games from the sideline, inactive in seven and not playing in an eighth.
He had no throws his way in the Sept. 24 game against Green Bay, had a dropped pass in his only opportunity Oct. 8 against Minnesota and finally — after being inactive for the next five games — got his first catch in the Thanksgiving Day loss to Miami.
"What I want to do is finish this season off on the right note," Williams said. "Obviously, playing is a step in the right direction."
It remains uncertain if Williams will be active at New England if Drummond and/or Ellis is able to play.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The defense missed middle linebacker Nick Barnett more than it was letting on following a 34-24 loss at Seattle on Monday night.
Without Barnett's read-and-react instincts, the Packers were a huge liability for the first time against the run this season. Shaun Alexander ripped off 201 yards in 40 carries as the Seahawks churned out 235 yards on the ground.
"Whatever gap we left open, for what coverage we were in, they found it. He's a great back, so give him a lot of credit as well," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "We played bad, and they played pretty good."
The absence of Barnett wasn't mentioned as an excuse. Barnett, the team's second leading tackler, was sidelined because of a broken right hand he sustained in the previous game. Rookie Abdul Hodge stepped in to make his first pro start.
The Packers, who have lost two straight to drop to 4-7, hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the first 10 games this season and came into the game allowing an average of 99.6 yards per game.
The Seahawks, primarily Alexander, had their way pounding the football with an emphasis on running behind tackle Walter Jones and guard Floyd Womack on the left side. Twenty-six of Alexander's runs were to the left, many on stretch plays that caused the Packers to overpursue and gave Alexander open cutback lanes.
"I don't think it was just one thing. If it is, we need to fix that," coach Mike McCarthy said. "They ran particularly a lot to (their) left. They got the ball outside, was able to cut it back. I'm sure tackling probably factored some into that. Those are all things we need to look at and get cleaned up."
The ease with which Alexander piled up the yardage — he had six carries of more than 12 yards — enabled Matt Hasselbeck to shake off a four-turnover first half and rally Seattle from a nine-point deficit with three touchdown passes in the second half.
"He was running the ball. If you have Alexander running the ball six, seven yards a carry, you pretty much do anything you want to after that," Pickett said.
Favre made it through the entire game and didn't seem to be too hampered by the injury, which knocked him out of the previous game eight days earlier and caused him to lose feeling on the right side of his throwing hand.
"I thought the ball came off his hand accurate," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I had no communication from him that he was affected by his injury."
Favre completed 22 of 36 passes for 266 yards. Yet, he had a season-high three interceptions, all of which were on downfield throws into double coverage. Cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings picked off Favre in back-to-back series late in the fourth quarter when the Packers were trying to overcome a 34-24 deficit.
Favre had a fourth turnover when he fumbled the ball on the final play of the game.
His only touchdown pass came on a short slant that Donald Driver turned into a 48-yard gain in the opening series of the second half.