AS IF ON CUE, LIONS AGAIN SELF-DESTRUCT

“We’re Here For The Beer”

— Sign at the Silverdome Well, sure. Why else would they come? Unless they wanted a souvenir football. I believe many of the Lions’ passes Sunday were intended for a blond woman in the third row.

They couldn’t have been meant for the receivers. Not a mile over their heads. Not two miles behind their backs. The way Rodney Peete and Bob Gagliano threw that pigskin, you’d have thought it was still greased. Here goes one to Walter Stanley — oops, it hit a sea gull. Here goes one to Robert Clark — oops, splash! It’s in Lake Huron.

They should have had Ernie Harwell calling the passes: “High and outside.
. . .” Then again, the Lions’ receivers weren’t exactly bucking for a stickum endorsement. How many balls did they drop? I lost count at eight, when I left the press box for a Maalox.

“We got our hinds kicked,” said coach Wayne Fontes after the Steelers embarrassed Detroit, 23-3, the Lions’ fourth loss in as many games. “They beat us every way possible.”

Aw, Wayne. Give your team credit. It beat you worse than the Steelers did. Particularly the offense. Two interceptions? Two fumbles? Three points? Football people talk of “being on the same page.” I’m not sure the Lions were using the same book. The quarterbacks were in “A Farewell To Arms.” The receivers were working on “Les Miserables.”

QUESTION: Who is Lomas Brown?

A. A very tall person.

B. Jim Brown’s cousin.

C. The Lions’ third-leading rusher.

The correct answer is C. Brown, an offensive lineman who weighs 290 pounds, took a desperation handoff from Gagliano and fell forward for three yards. That’s two more than Barry Sanders had all day, and only five fewer than the Lions’ leading rusher for the afternoon, Richard Johnson.

He’s a receiver. Drops, bobbles and flubs

“Wasn’t this supposed to be the week you turned it around?” someone asked linebacker Chris Spielman afterward.

“Every week’s supposed to be the week,” he said.

True. But this week, at home, against a team that allowed 92 points in its first two games? Let’s be brutally honest here: If the Lions can’t beat these guys, whom are they supposed to beat?

And where is the improvement? First the offense stinks, then the defense stinks, then the offense stinks again. Who knows? Maybe Rusty Hilger and Darryl Rogers are on their way back, too.

QUESTION: What was the worst play in Sunday’s game?

A. When Robert Clark let a Peete bomb go right between his hands.

B. When Johnson finally caught a pass, he got hit and fumbled it away.

C. Impossible to answer.

The correct response is C. It would be unfair to choose just one.

Peete? OK. Let’s talk Peete. I like Rodney. I think he’ll be a great quarterback one day. But on Sunday, he reminded me of that rookie pitcher in the movie “Bull Durham.” Sometimes he threw a strike, and sometimes he hit the mascot.

“It’s not like I was trying to throw bad passes,” Peete said. Unfortunately, he often succeeded. He was 15-of-30 with an interception and a sore knee when Fontes finally benched him in the third quarter. To be honest, I’m not sure it was the smartest move to debut Peete in the first place. His knee was tender, he’d had only three full practices, and the stretch offense had finally jelled with Gagliano (27 points versus the Bears). The Lions also knew Barry Sanders might not play because of injury.

You stick a green quarterback out there with no run support? I don’t buy it. If the point is to win games, then the Lions may have had a better chance starting Gagliano. But Fontes seemed in a gold miner’s rush to get Peete into action. It backfired, and Peete spent the final 20 minutes on the bench, his head low.

Which, of course, was better than watching. Gagliano, who got married last week, came in and proved the theory that behind every good man is a woman — and behind every Lions quarterback is someone dancing with his interception. Team without a home

OK. Stop. A moment of optimism. The truth is 1) Peete will get better and 2) Sanders was hurt. If we’ve learned one thing over these past four weeks it is that the Lions with Barry Sanders are a team with hope, and the Lions without Barry Sanders are Zsa Zsa Gabor.

So next week may indeed be better than this week, even though next week’s opponent is Minnesota. In Minnesota. I mean, how much worse can it get?

“Good players make good plays, great players make great plays,” Fontes said. “And we didn’t make any plays.”

Gosh. That’s almost poetry.

Unfortunately, it’s a sad refrain. No worse than hearing “Let’s Go Steelers!” chants from the Silverdome end zone. Once again, we lost our stadium to outsiders and, until the Lions improve, they can have it.

“We got to get the winning taste in our mouth,” said Brown, pacing with frustration, “we got to spit out this losing taste.”

Take aim, Lomas. The way the offense looked Sunday, you might miss the sidewalk completely.

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