THE LIONS GO AS LOW AS ONLY THEY CAN

PHILADELPHIA – They came looking for their future and found their past.

Every bad game the Lions ever played, they relived – and outdid – in the first 30 minutes Sunday.

Every grand idea ever squandered on the road, they squandered again in Philadelphia.

Forget that 2-0 start. Curb your enthusiasm. The Lions didn’t just look bad Sunday, they looked Lions Bad. No tackling. No running. No pass rush. No pass protection. If the Lions don’t want to be held to previous low bars, they should stop trying to limbo underneath them.

“As soon as we’re finished watching it,” said safety Kenoy Kennedy of the game tape, “we’re gonna burn it up and throw it in the Detroit River.”

If they don’t get sacked first.

Or if Philly doesn’t score again. When exactly did this one reach the tipping point? Between Philly’s fourth and fifth touchdown? Or the sixth and the seventh? Or the eighth?

Eight touchdowns? Eight touchdowns is a month in the NFL, not an afternoon. And every one was an offensive score. No kickoff returns. No interceptions run back.

The Eagles averaged nearly a point per minute. This, from a team that, in the past two weeks, had scored one touchdown.

“What can you say about the pass rush?” someone asked coach Rod Marinelli.

“They rushed,” he said, “we didn’t.”

Curb your enthusiasm.

Embarrassed? It’s not in Marinelli’s vocubulary

In the locker room afterward, many Lions spoke about “looking at the tape.” They don’t need tape. This isn’t a search for Bigfoot. The problem was so glaring, it appeared on the first snap – when Jon Kitna was sacked – and the first defensive series – when the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook plowed for a 25-yard TD.

“Westbrook,” Kennedy said, “it was like he was playing against a Pop Warner team.”

Well, if the shoe fits.

This was the kind of game that makes Lions fans hate being Lions fans. They still remember Detroit coming here in the 1995 playoffs and losing, 58-37.

Well, hold your breath for Sunday’s summary: The Lions allowed 536 yards, nine sacks, 56 points, and didn’t see a punt the entire first half.

If they got paid by the tackle, they went home with $1.76 in their pockets.

“Are you embarrassed?” Marinelli was asked. “I don’t get embarrassed,” he shot back.

Good approach. Unfortunately, it’s like a fish saying, “I don’t get wet.” Sometimes, the ocean speaks for itself.

And Sunday was an ocean of mistakes, missed blocks, missed tackles and mismatches. It’s one of those games you want to forget quickly – if it didn’t keep haunting you.

I mean, Philly scored more points Sunday than it had scored in a regular season game in 54 years.

“I wouldn’t say it was easy,” Eagles’ guard Shawn Andrews said of their first touchdown, “but … we knew we could do it again.”

And again. And again.

The tape that won’t go away

Now, because I have childhood friends in Philadelphia, I sat in the stands for much of the game. I can tell you Philly fans have even lower expectations than Detroit fans. At one point, when the Eagles went ahead 35-7, a guy near us stood up and screamed, “YOU BETTER NOT SIT ON THE $%%#$$ LEAD, EAGLES!”

Oh, to have such problems.

Philly was ready to roast Donovan McNabb on a giant spit after two losses to open the season; but after McNabb’s 21-for-26 performance Sunday, 381 yards and four touchdowns, he’s the toast of the town.

The Lions were toasted.

Yes, it’s true, the Eagles desperately needed a win; and the Lions, at 2-0, were perhaps too confident for their talent.

The problem is, this Lions team – like many before it – is simply not good enough to write off a game to overconfidence, weak preparation, or taking a breather. A Marinelli-coached team should not get blown out this way. He’s here to turn things around. Not around and around.

The Eagles wore the throwback uniforms Sunday, but the Lions were pure retro. They can burn the tape, they can throw it in the river. Somehow the dang thing keeps finding its way back to the screen.

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

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