by | Sep 22, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

SAN FRANCISCO – Get a pie.

And get in line.

The Lions are becoming the NFL’s answer to banana cream in the face, a clown at a carnival, the mule you kick, the man you dunk by throwing a baseball at a lever and – splash! – down he goes.

Take a number, take your shot. The two men doing the shooting Sunday were guys who used to work for this franchise but got out, former Lions, also known as “lucky ducks.”

Mike Martz used to coach the Lions’ offense and J.T. O Sullivan used to ride the bench as a backup quarterback. Both were let go last season; Martz with a firing, O’Sullivan without an offer.

And here they were with the 49ers on Sunday, already ahead by 15 points, and sitting on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. The safe bet is to kick the field goal, make it a three-score lead.

But why bet safe when you know the outcome?

You can only imagine the conversation between Martz and head coach Mike Nolan.

MARTZ: “Lemme at ’em.”

NOLAN: “You want to stuff it in?”

MARTZ: “Nah, nah, too easy. I’m gonna put a guy in motion, do a sweep to our kick returner and send him to the corner of the end zone.”

NOLAN: “Are you insane?”

MARTZ: “Lemme at ’em, lemme at ’em …”

Sure enough, Nolan called his kicking team off, Martz ran the play, O’Sullivan took the snap and …

Well. You know the rest. Redemption for Martz and O’Sullivan

“It’s just not good football,” Rod Marinelli said. It’s not good. It’s beyond bad. It’s sad.

Sad because there is no spark. Sad because nobody makes a play anywhere. Sad because we’ve seen it all before. Sad because people actually thought it would be different.

Three weeks. Three losses. In all three games, the Lions surrendered 21 points in the first half, effectively losing before they ever had a chance. This, with a defense the front office swore was the most improved part of the team.

Oh, and those three losses came to Atlanta, considered by many the worst team in the league, Green Bay, facing life without Brett Favre, and San Francisco, a 5-11 team last year that was so desperate for help, it actually hired TWO LIONS.

They had the last laugh Sunday.

O’Sullivan ran around and slung the ball as if he couldn’t have been more confident. In one stretch, he threw three straight completions, covered 67 yards and finished with a touchdown. It took a little over a minute.

And Martz? Well, this was like Dr. Evil playing basketball against Mini-Me. He was able to use double-reverses, over–the-top passes and running back Frank Gore, whom he sent into the teeth of the Lions’ worst-in-the-NFL rush defense – OK, not teeth, gums – only to see him burst out the other side for 130 yards and a touchdown.

“Any way you could have handled Martz’s game plan better?” Marinelli was asked.

“I think if we played better defense,” he said.

Give the man credit. He cuts to the chase. Just shut it down

Meanwhile, the Lions may have lost their starting quarterback. (Only in Detroit would this rank as the bottom third of a column.) Jon Kitna, who was getting mauled all game long, left the field with a knee injury in the final two minutes.

Kitna plays as if he’s ready to die on the field, and afterward, he looks like he has. He rightly points out that you can’t do much when you’re always two or three touchdowns behind.

Said Kitna: “We’re not built to come from behind anymore.”

Were they ever?

By the way, Dan Orlovsky relieved Kitna – and immediately threw an interception.

Honestly. Just shut it down.

There is not much to say. And there is so much to do. All we can tell you is the pies are selling at a brisk rate, and NFL teams are salivating.

The bye week is next, which supposedly came early this year. The truth is, it’s late.

The season said “bye” on Sunday.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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