THESE NEW, STABLE LIONS STILL EMIT A FAINT ODOR

Wasn’t that something? The way the Lions came back and slaughtered the Rams, ran all over them, shut down their passing attack, scored four times in the final two minutes? Who’d have believed that? Wasn’t it something? Wasn’t it–

Oh.

You were there.

Thought I could fool you for a minute.

Let’s see. What can I really tell you about the “new” Lions, supposedly more stable now that Darryl Rogers has been reprieved as the coach. Stable? Well. They stayed exactly the same as the weeks before. Lost, 37-16. I’d call that stable.

Let’s start with the good stuff:

Jim Arnold, the punter. Hell of a job.

So much for the good stuff.

The rest? Oooh. We had some doozies: There was cornerback Bobby Watkins, who gave the Rams receivers respect. A lot of respect. In fact, it was as if all game Watkins was saying to them: “I give you respect.” The Rams receivers, however, could not hear him, because they were always 20 yards away.

OK. That’s not true. One time Henry Ellard was 40 yards away. That was the play where Watkins nearly fell, Jim Everett threw a long pass, a terrible pass really, and Ellard still had enough time to catch up to it, balance his checkbook, do his Christmas shopping, study for a real estate license, then catch it and sprint for a touchdown. The mistakes keep coming

There were the half dozen or so dropped balls by Lions receivers, proving to Chuck Long, once again, that it’s no fun if you hit ’em in the hands. Then again, Long didn’t have the best of days. The name on the back of his jersey might have been the description of his passes.

Wait. Don’t go. There were the special teams, which gave up a 53-yard kickoff return (as the Church Lady on TV says: “Isn’t that special?”).

There was a missed Eddie Murray field goal. A James Jones fumble on a crucial fourth-quarter drive. The Rams’ last field goal hit the crossbar and went over.

Even the equipment is against us.

“Would you pay money to see this team?” someone asked Jones, in the predictably morose locker room afterward.

“Would I pay money?” he said. “I guess that depended on what I wanted to see.”

Right. Good. A fresh way of looking at things. Who says fans pay to see a winning team? A lot of folks like to shell out 15 bucks to watch punts.

Interceptions? You get your money’s worth. Odd plays? How about that last touchdown pass, Long to Pete Mandley in the final 30 seconds — ruled no good because Mandley went out of bounds and came back in? You don’t see that in Denver, do you?

There was even a fight near the end, and when the referees cleared the bodies, they threw out “No. 93 of the Lions,” Jerry Ball, which was interesting, because Ball was on the sidelines the entire time. If he was smart, he ignored the mistake and left anyhow.

Now, personally, I like this kind of stuff. Unfortunately, I don’t pay for tickets. Of those who did Sunday, 25 percent (more than 10,000 ticket-holders) chose to waste the money and stay home anyhow, presumably to do something important, like clean the fish tank.

And that is where we are. When owner William Ford cleared up the coaching controversy last week, he pretty much took away the only thing left to talk about.

I don’t want to say the game was dull, but when the final gun sounded, several people opened their eyes and said, “Huh? . . . Whazzat?” That was a fast season

The good news, of course, is the Lions, now 2-10, are on track for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. The bad news is, there’s nobody out there that could make that much difference.

“How difficult is it to keep saying the same things every week?” someone asked Long.

“Well, the same things keep happening every week,” he answered.

Well put. The fact is, football season here has become something to be gotten through as quickly as possible. Would anyone really object if the Lions called off their last three games and just concentrated on next year?

“What can you do?” someone asked Jones. “Anything to shake things up?”

“It’s too late for something like that,” he moaned, “unless you’re gonna fire 10 or 12 players at one time.”

Don’t tempt anybody.

Enough. We will not rehash what is wrong with the Lions here, because it is Monday morning, and most of us feel lousy enough. Suffice it to say at one point during Sunday’s defeat, William Ford was spotted by the window of his private box, his hands curled by his chin. It looked as if he was praying.

Then again, he might have been getting sick.

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