by | Sep 20, 2004 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

First, to answer the question, why did I go to the Lions’ victory instead of the final day of the Ryder Cup? That’s easy. Why should I watch my country get its butt kicked when I can witness a minor miracle?

I mean, it’s not like a 2-0 start happens a lot around here. Undefeated? Top of the heap? These are the Lions, right?

Yes. These are the Lions. And those were the Houston Texans. And, let’s be honest, that has a lot to do with why the Lions are 2-0 — about as much as the Chicago Bears have to do with it. The Bears and Texans together almost add up to one good team. Almost. And each of them played Detroit as if winning were its last resort. Fumbles. Interceptions. Bad penalties. It’s not as if the Lions knocked off a really tough bunch, like, say, the European Ryder Cup team.

But having said that, let’s say this: They won both games, didn’t they?

In years past, we lamented that the Lions didn’t win the easy ones. Not this year. When the schedule gives you a lemon, make lemon pulp. They did. And along the way, there were reasons to get excited.

Reason No. 1: Roy Williams. Last week, I wrote that the big, fast, rookie receiver gave a moment fans should write down and remember, an acrobatic mid-air catch that marked the arrival of a major talent. This week, he outdid that. He gave two.

If only every Lion were so lucky

The first came in the third quarter, when Joey Harrington threaded a 31-yard pass between two defenders and Williams took the ball over one guy and held on through a collision with the other. It was a feat of body and hands, the former stretched, the latter sticky. It was Williams’ first career touchdown.

“I’ll give that ball to my brother,” he said.

The second moment came with less than five minutes to go in the game. Williams curled to the front of the end zone, and Harrington whipped a pass that only Williams could reach — if he could reach it — and he extended like a stretched Gumby and caught it with perfect form, dragging his right foot before he fell out of bounds. Another touchdown, ensuring the victory.

“I’ll give that one to my mother,” he said.

“How many touchdowns before you keep one?” he was asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, laughing. “I got to work down the family list.”

Folks, I am telling you, this kid is special. He has the gift for making the difficult easy, and he has a maturity that proves an extra year of college makes a difference. The only blemish on Williams this year might be the absence of Charles Rogers, who would have thinned the defenses that Williams surely will attract.

“What was the difference between your first week and your second?” he was asked after snagging four receptions for 73 yards.

“Pretty much the same,” he said. “Last week, on the road, I made a lucky catch. This week, at home, I made a couple more lucky catches. That’s about it.”

Right. And I’m Phil Mickelson.

Check that. I don’t want to be Phil Mickelson this week.

“Roy, you seem so calm,” someone said.

“Well, we’ve just won two games, that’s all,” he answered. “Come back in the 14th game of the season when we have a winning record and I’ll show more excitement.”

Hmm. You don’t think coaches love this kid much, do you?

Plenty of trouble looms ahead

Other reasons to smile? Harrington got better as the day went on, making surer passes, going 11-for-13 in the second half and managing the game well. The running backs, Artose Pinner and Kevin Jones, showed some spark, if not big yardage. And the special teams — which last week blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown — this week saw Eddie Drummond go 99 yards for a kickoff return TD.

The bad news? The secondary looks battered as always, the pass rush looks spotty — Detroit blitzed David Carr once on third down, and he still had enough time to stay back there, wait, and throw a 54-yard bomb for a touchdown. That’s not what we call “pressure.”

Worst of all? The party’s over. After two games against the soft-boiled eggs of the NFL menu, the Lions now face three weeks of burnt steak. The Philadelphia Eagles come here Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick — and don’t think he won’t salivate against this defense — are next on the road, followed by the always-fun Green Bay Packers.

“It’s nice to be 2-0,” coach Steve Mariucci said, “but we’ll find out how we measure against playoff teams next week.”

Still, fun is fun. And it was a lot more joyous at Ford Field than in the sunny-gets-blue fairways of Oakland Hills Country Club.

“If someone had told you,” Mariucci was asked, “that you’d be without Charles Rogers, Dre’ Bly and Boss Bailey and you’d still be 2-0, what would you have said?”

He shrugged.

“I dunno. We are. It is. So that’s that.”

C’mon. Am I gonna miss an answer like that — for golf?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com”


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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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