Two consecutive throws begat two consecutive interceptions which begat two consecutive touchdown returns.
The elapsed time for this genealogical nightmare was only 30 seconds.
But it might as well have been three years -- the time continuum for what has become the second-longest road losing streak in NFL history.
The Lions' 22nd consecutive road setback was so demoralizing that even Joey Harrington couldn't find comfort in hackneyed sound bites. There was no solace in battling their NFC North Division-leading opponent to a draw through 57 minutes. The Lions placed themselves in a position where they should have, at the very least, threatened to send their game against Minnesota into sudden-death overtime.
The end did come suddenly, but as usual it was a self-inflicted demise.
The Lions were strangely confident when they got the ball after a field goal gave the Vikings a 10-7 advantage with 2:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. They placed their faith in their young quarterback who has methodically grown as a field general over the last month. For Harrington, it was almost as if he had ventured back into the time machine to his Oregon days where late comebacks were the norm.
But then he forced a third-and-five throw to Az-Zahir Hakim over the middle that Vikings safety Corey Chavous sniffed out as soon as the Lions broke out of the huddle. Chavous scampered unscathed for the touchdown and a 17-7 lead. And then on the first play of the Lions' next possession, Vikings cornerback Brian Williams stepped in front of a slant pass intended for David Kircus and raced upfield.
Harrington, the lone impediment to the end zone, futilely threw himself at Williams.
It marked the only time all day that Harrington missed Williams.
The Viking was Harrington's third-leading receiver with three interceptions.
"This one was tough," Harrington said. Those were four words that he would use quite often during his mea culpa.
This one might have stung Harrington more than any other loss he has endured through his first two years -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing. He's usually quick with the cliche and the forced smile, trying to convince us -- although it's more likely an attempt to convince himself -- that everything is fine and happiness is just a running back and possession receiver away.
But he really sounded angry with himself, disappointed that he let his teammates down with the second four-interception game of his career and disturbed that this team still seemed hell-bent on self-destruction.
"The defense put us in a position to win the football game and we didn't," he said. "As tough as it is to comprehend it, to understand it or to have it sink in, we had our chances all day. We didn't have to leave it to that last drive. We got out to midfield a couple of times and it is the same thing we have been doing -- interceptions, drops and penalties."
Harrington knew that he blew this one. Coach Steve Mariucci assured him after the fourth interception that he wouldn't yank him for Mike McMahon. That wouldn't have solved anything, especially with the next game only four days away on Thanksgiving. And cherry-picking a meaningless touchdown in the final few seconds doesn't rectify all the day's ills.
The offense has gone beyond punch-line fodder to head-shaking amazement.
The Lions exhibited a rather imaginative red zone offense.
They seemed on the verge of a game-tying score just before the end of the first half. They had first-and-goal at the Vikings' 5 when Casey Fitzsimmons' touchdown was nullified by Cory Schlesinger's offensive pass interference, pushing them back to the 15. Then Stockar McDougle was flagged for holding, pushing them back to the 25.
After a quick run -- for lack of a better description -- up the middle, the Lions called time and brought out the ever-trustworthy Jason Hanson. His 38-yard kick was good -- until the Lions were called for delay of game.
How can a team get penalized for delay of game -- AFTER A TIME-OUT???!!!???
"That shouldn't have happened," Mariucci said.
Hanson's 43-yard attempt went wide right and the Lions finished with nothing.
"We're not getting any breaks from the officiating," barked veteran offensive lineman Ray Brown.
"It's not that I'm complaining about it, but I just don't want to see these young guys get discouraged when things just don't seem to go right. And I know that good teams are supposed to make your own breaks and when you're the type of football team that we are, you're going to have things happen to you that some think you deserve."
In other words, bad players beget bad execution that begets bad fortune that ultimately results in bad football and a morose 0-22 road record during the Matt Millen era.
But there is slight cause for optimism this morning.
There are mercifully only five more opportunities at humiliation this season.
With three minutes to play Sunday afternoon, the Lions were on the verge of doing something good.
Like winning their fourth game of the season.
Like winning their first road game in three seasons.
Like winning. Period.
And just that quickly -- within a span of 39 seconds and two Joey Harrington interceptions -- it all came unraveled as the Vikings left the Lions reeling with a mind-numbing 24-14 loss at the Metrodome.
Minnesota's Aaron Elling broke the 7-7 tie with a 24-yard field goal with 2:45 to play.
Safety Corey Chavous scored on a 32-yard interception return 19 seconds later.
Cornerback Brian Williams scored on a 42-yard interception return 20 seconds after that.
Suddenly, the Vikings, losers of their previous four games, didn't feel quite so bad about themselves and their 7-4 record, still a game up on Green Bay in the NFC North.
And the Lions, meanwhile, slipped a little deeper into the abyss of a 3-8 season and a road losing streak that stands at 22, the second longest in NFL history.
The 1983-86 Buffalo Bills also lost 22 in a row on the road, one short of the league record 23, set by the Houston Oilers of 1981-84.
As much as coach Steve Mariucci would like to see it as something less, it's there and it's not likely to go away any time soon.
"That's been talked about quite a bit and we just keep working, trying to find a way to win one," Mariucci said. "I can't help but acknowledge that statistic. We all know about it; believe me, we've heard about it.
"I'm trying to approach this thing as if we are 0-6 on the road." That's the Lions' road record this season. "I'm trying to stay a little narrow-minded in the here and now. We're 0-6 on the road; that is not overly unusual for a team that is trying to build.
"But we've got to find a way somewhere in here to beat a team on the road. The last couple games, as you know -- at Kansas City and at Carolina -- are against good football teams."
What really hurt Mariucci and his players was that the Lions played well enough defensively for 57 minutes to beat the struggling Vikings.
They sacked Daunte Culpepper three times -- including two by defensive end Robert Porcher -- and free safety Brian Walker intercepted him once.
They held All-Pro receiver Randy Moss to 56 yards on five receptions and kept him out of the end zone.
After giving up a 25-yard touchdown run to Michael Bennett halfway through the first quarter, they stopped the Vikings on seven consecutive possessions and delivered the game-tying touchdown on a play by defensive backs Dre' Bly and Corey Harris.
Bly ripped the ball out of Moe Williams' grasp, scooped it up and carried it 44 yards, then --- with Culpepper closing in to knock him out of bounds -- lateraled the ball to Harris, who went the final 35 yards for a touchdown.
But Harrington and the Lions' offense, which had shown occasional signs of life in recent weeks, were never quite in sync.
Harrington completed 21 of 41 passes for 167 yards but he was intercepted four times -- including three by Brian Williams -- in one of his worst performances since Green Bay intercepted him four times in his first NFL start last year.
The Lions' only offensive touchdown came on Harrington's five-yard pass to Az-Zahir Hakim with 35 seconds left in the game, but, by that time, the damage was already done.
Most costly to the Lions was their inability to score after getting to the Minnesota 5 late in the first half.
A Harrington-to-Casey Fitzsimmons touchdown pass was nullified by a pass interference penalty against fullback Cory Schlesinger with 20 seconds left. Then on ensuing plays:
Harrington's pass to Bill Schroeder was broken up by cornerback Ken Irvin.
Tackle Stockar McDougle drew a 10-yard penalty for holding.
After a Lions time-out, holder Nick Harris was penalized five yards for delay of game when the play clock ran out on Jason Hanson's 38-yard field goal.
Hanson pushed his 43-yard attempt wide right. It was only the second time he had missed in 15 attempts this season. Despite all of that, the Lions were still in the game until the final collapse.
Mariucci went out of his way to avoid throwing the blame on Harrington but the usually-upbeat second-year quarterback was somber and obviously disappointed with himself.
"This one was tough," Harrington said. "This one is tough . . . I just made some mistakes. This is a tough one."
The Lions will be at home Thursday for the annual Thanksgiving game, but that doesn't make it any easier. The Packers will be in town, warming up their 6-5 record for a run at the Vikings and the division lead.
Scott's Game Commentary:
The Lions blew their best chance at ending their road losing streak in typical fashion: Harrington throwing four interceptions, two that were returned for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter. The Lions Defense turned in their best performance of the year as they only gave up 10 points and held the #1 offense in the NFL on seven straight drives. Dre Bly, the best player the Lions have right now, picked off Culpepper that helped the Lions tie the game in the 2nd half. The reason why the Lions road losing streak reached 21 was because of the offense that scored one mop up touchodown late in the game. Right before the half the Lions had it first and goal at the five and ended up with nothing. That was back breaker given they had a touchdown wiped out on a piss poor offensive pass interference call on Corey Schlesinger. After calling time out, snapper Nick Harris was called for a delay of game and of course Hanson nailed the field goal. the ensuing try from 43 yards was wide right and all I thought was another loss definitely on the way. Still, the Lions had plenty of chances to take the lead or tie the game in the 2nd half. But, Joey "interceptions" Harrington had a repeat performance of other games this year that ended up killing any hopes of a victory. Fortunately, there is only five more games till the 3rd straight pathetic season is finished!
Offense: --- F-. Four Interceptions??? Two returned for a touchdown on back to back drives late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game??? Everytime Joey Harrington playes mediocre in a few games, he comes up with a dud! As i've said over and over, he has no weapons whatsoever, but Joey must learn to stop throwing such stupid interceptions. The Vikings Defense is one of the worst defenses in the NFL and the Lions offense could not get a touchdown till the game was out of hand and the Vikings were in the prevent defense? The bottom line is the Lions have absolutely no running game! Bryson and Gary combined for 40 yards! No matter the Lions are dead last in the NFL in rushing. It appears likely that Charles Rogers will not be back the rest of the year. Just the Lions luck as the next two WR's taken after Rogers, Johnson and Boulden, have been big contributers to Houston and Arizona.
Defense: --- B+. After giving up a touchdown in the 1st quarter, the "D" played as well as it could against the best offense in the NFL. They shut down Culpepper and Moss and scored a touchdown to tie the game at seven. Dre Bly has been one of the best free agent pickups in years. Robert Porcher played like he did several years ago and came up with two big sacks. But, it was not enough as the "D" gave up the game winning field in the 4th quarter. The Defense has played six quarters of good football and that is something to build on.
Special Teams: --- D. Nick Harris should be cut from the team for not getting the snap in after the Lions called a time out. That ended up costing the Lions three points. Reggie Swinton continues to do a nice job subbing for Eddie Drummond.
Coaching: --- C. Mooch had his team ready to play against the Vikings, but what can he do with an offense that has no play makers and a QB that loves to throw interceptions.
Overall: --- D. The Lions stayed with the Vikings for 57 minutes longer than anyone expected them to. The Corey Schlesinger offensive pass interference call got my blood boiling since it was a pathetic call and ended up costing the Lions a touchdown. Still, I couldn't help but laugh after watching Harrington throw back to back intercpetions for touchdowns. Typical Joey Harrington for you! Earlier this week, I learned that the Lions will help BS promote his new book at Ford Field on why he walked out on the Lions. All I can say is typical Lions to try and embrace that individual. If you have been reading my commentaries from day one, you know my feelings about BS. To see the Lions support his new book just shows how messed up this franchise is. I guess BS needs to make some money since he lost his salary arbitration with the Lions. Shame on anyone who wastes their money on that trash! Next up for the Lions are the red hot Green Bay Packers in the annual Thanksgiving Day game, which will be my 13th consecutive game. I used to look forward to going to the Thanksgiving Day game more than any other. Now, all I have to look forward to is some beers and watch the Lions lose. It will be a miracle to beat the Packers on Thursday, but the NFL is so wacky this year, nothing would surprise me.
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