Blogs > Lions Lowdown

One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Stanton deserves an opportunity

First in the interest of full disclosure, we as reporters have not watched a full practice since training camp. We typically get to watch players stretch then go through 15 to 20 minutes of individual workouts, so coaches know a lot better than me how far along Drew Stanton is at quarterback.

But I talked to two veteran offensive players Thursday about Stanton and asked them what they thought of the second-year quarterback without couching my question with offensive coordinator Jim Colletto's suggestion that Stanton is “not ready” for an NFL game yet and might “embarrass” himself by playing now. Both essentially said that Stanton has looked fine in limited reps and they expect him to be a "good" player. Neither suggested Stanton would be an embarrassment if he played now.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Friday that Colletto's comments were “a poor choice of words.”

"What he's saying in my opinion, as we've talked, we're trying to develop two young quarterbacks at the same time, which is very difficult," Marinelli said. "You have eight-minute periods (in practice) right now and within an eight-minute period you get maybe nine snaps and all the different blitzes you're going to get, so it's difficult trying to get both guys ready, develop two young quarterbacks. What he's saying is we want to make sure he's got enough tools to go into a game with."

Asked if he thought Stanton would embarrass himself if he had to play this Sunday against Chicago, Marinelli said, "No."

I caught Colletto in the locker room Friday and he didn't exactly back down from his comments.

"I don't want to put him in a circumstance where he feels uncomfortable and he doesn't perform well and he gets embarrassed by it," Colletto said. "I've had that with college kids and it really affects those kids."

Asked specifically if he thought Stanton, who's a professional, would be embarrassed by his play, Colletto said "no" but reiterated that he's "not comfortable enough to put him in there and let him swing from the hip" yet.

"He's not ready yet, that's all I can tell you," Colletto said. "In my opinion he's not ready and when I think he's ready I'll put him in. It has nothing to do with – if the word embarrass is not the right word to use, I don't know. You guys interpret it different than I do, but I don't want to have a kid to go in there and not at least have a chance to be successful and then they boo his (butt) off the field. That doesn't sit well with that kid, so I don't want to do that.

"Now where's the fine line to do that, that's a hard thing to measure because every kid eventually has to get in there and see whether he can sink or swim. But we're not at that point yet."

Stanton, of course, said he'd feel comfortable playing this week against Chicago and didn't embarrass himself in the handful of first-team snaps he took Thursday. He said Colletto met with him to explain his comments and he was "taken back by" what he was hearing.

"I didn't read the article but I heard what it said," Stanton said. "That's fine. He's entitled to his opinion, so if he thinks that I'll embarrass myself when I go out there then that's what he believes and ultimately he's the offensive coordinator, right now."

Stanton may never get a chance to prove himself on the field this year. The Lions are expected to sign Daunte Culpepper next week and it may take a decree from ownership to get last year's second-round draft pick on the field.

In my opinion, that's the wrong direction for a team stuck in an 0-7 rut and clearly playing with an eye towards the future. I think Dan Orlovsky deserves a few more weeks under center – he hasn't been bad in his three starts, and though he's a free-agent-to-be the Lions need to give him a few more games to more clearly assess his abilities – and then Stanton should start the final six or so weeks.

Colletto's point is fair that Stanton may not be ready for everything that comes with being a starting quarterback in the NFL. He did miss all of last year with a knee injury and a month this season with thumb problems, but Stanton is no different than most other high draft picks in that he has a world of ability and no one can say for certain how good or bad he'll be. The only way to judge Stanton is to get him on the field.

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Big plays a big headache

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry weighed in on the whole Tampa 2 debate Thursday. Like Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith before him, he defended the honor of the defense, if not the way the Lions are playing it.

Of the NFC-worst 2,951 yards the Lions have allowed this year, Barry said roughly 41 percent – 1,202 – have come on their 35 biggest plays. (Independently, I went through the box scores using Barry's criteria – the five biggest plays per game – and came up with 1,199 yards. With such a small discrepancy, I have no interest in rechecking the math).

Regardless, the Lions are allowing a substantial amount of offense on less than eight percent of their defensive snaps.

"You guys make fun of the head coach, you make fun of me when we say that we're this close; we are this close," Barry said. "When you give up 1,200 yards on 35 plays, that's ridiculous. Out of 440? So there's a lot of football that we've been doing good things, we just need to consistently do it and we've proven that we can't break down."

I'm sure a similar stat could be regurgitated for every team in the NFL. No one allows teams to regularly march 80 yards on 4- and 5-yard (or even 10- and 12-yard) gains. Barry's point, however, is that the Lions are giving up too many big plays like Santana Moss' 50-yard touchdown catch last week or the 86-yarder Bernard Berrian had earlier this month or the 62- and 66-yard touchdowns the Falcons scored in the season opener.

"I've never heard of that before, a team taking its worst 35 plays and it calculating up to 1,200 freaking yards," Barry said. "That's unbelievable. And that's what we just keep preaching to our guys, if we ... eliminate those five plays a game – or maybe don't eliminate them, maybe we hold them to 18 yards instead of 50 or 60 or 80 - then you have a dang chance."

Colletto: Stanton not ready

Lions fans hoping to see Drew Stanton under center this year might be out of luck. Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said Thursday, in no uncertain terms, that he doesn't think Stanton is ready for game action right now.

"He's not ready to do that yet," Colletto said. "I'm not going to embarrass the kid just to prove a point to somebody else."

Embarrass? That's a strong word.

"The fans want a lot of things. So do we," Colletto said. "But I'm not going to put a youngster in there and embarrass him in a live NFL game where those guys on the other side don't care who the quarterback is until he's real comfortable with what he's doing. And he's getting closer and closer to doing that. And so I'm saying we'll give him more and more turns and get him a little more comfortable at doing that. But the big point when we did this change, Dan was first and foremost. That was most important. And now we can work the other way a little bit."

Stanton did take a couple first-team reps at the end of each practice period Thursday, the first No. 1 reps he's taken since Dan Orlovsky replaced Jon Kitna as starter two weeks ago. Colletto said Stanton will continue to take first-team snaps in practice but may "need another preseason" before he he's fully comfortable in the offense.

"The experiment to throw him in there right now wouldn't be fair to him, at this point," Colletto said.

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Wednesday leftovers

A few other leftover items from Wednesday:

• Safety Dwight Smith looks like he'll miss Sunday's game at Chicago with a mid-foot sprain. He was one of six Lions who did not practice Wednesday. In fact, the team was banged up enough that Rod Marinelli gave players a day out of pads. Defensive tackles Cory Redding (groin) and Chuck Darby (calf), linebacker Jordon Dizon (hamstring), tight end Casey FitzSimmons (ribs) and fullback Jerome Felton (ankle) also missed practice. Felton probably won't play either, but guard Damion Cook practiced Wednesday and should be on the field against the Bears.

• Speaking of the Bears ... linebacker Brian Urlacher was asked in his conference call with Detroit media if Chicago had spent any time preparing for Drew Stanton playing at quarterback. "We really don't care who's the quarterback no matter what team we play unless it's Michael Vick, then we'll be a little bit different," Urlacher said. "I don't think we'll be seeing him for a while, either."

• Lions coach Rod Marinelli wouldn't rule out Drew Stanton getting on the field for his first NFL action this week, but it doesn't sound like that's in the plans now. Stanton said he took his normal allotment of reps Wednesday (20 percent or so), and none with the first team.

• Funny quote from Dan Orlovsky on the Lions' interest in Daunte Culpepper: "The guy's a star. He was a stud. He was on the cover of Madden." Um, he also might take your job.

• Yesterday's release of Langston Moore doesn't necessarily create playing time for rookies Landon Cohen and Andre Fluellen. Fluellen played sparingly the only time he was active at Houston; Cohen hasn't been up this year. Marinelli said eight defensive linemen will dress Sunday and the final helmet could go to Corey Smith because of his special-teams ability. That'd be tempting fate with Redding and Darby banged up, but both Dewayne White and Ikaika Alama-Francis can play tackle. White's seen plenty of time inside on nickel downs as the Lions continue to try and get Cliff Avril on the field.

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It's the players, not the system

Brian Urlacher said what Rod Marinelli cannot.

The Bears middle linebacker was asked on a conference call with Detroit media Wednesday whether the Tampa 2 has run its course as a viable NFL defense -- essentially the same question Marinelli faced after the Lions 25-17 loss to Washington Sunday. Urlacher's answer: "If you don't have the players, it's not going to work."

He's right. The Tampa 2's had enough success both past (Super Bowl wins by the Bucs and Colts) and present (Minnesota and Tampa have top-10 NFL defenses) to suggest it still has a place in the NFL. The Lions, however, don't have the personnel to execute it properly.

Marinelli, Urlacher and long-time Tampa 2 cornerback Brian Kelly all locked on the same point Wednesday when asked what one factor most contributes to the defense's success.

"Pressure on the quarterback," Urlacher said without hesitation. "If you can rush four guys and drop five and still stop the run and get pressure and all that good stuff, you're going to be a good defense."

The Lions, as has become apparent, cannot do that. They have 15 sacks -- 16th most in the NFL -- but few have come in the four-man game and only Dewayne White and Cliff Avril are rushing threats on any down. For all the talk about changing coordinators and coaches and schemes, the truth is the Lions need an influx of talent in their front seven to be anything more than a bottom-tier NFL defense.

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Lions want Culpepper

Not only is Daunte Culpepper visiting the Lions for a workout today, the Lions would like to sign the free-agent quarterback ASAP.

Teams bring players in for workouts every week. Some they have legitimate interest in, some they just want to check the tires on. I've been told Culpepper, who's been out of football all year, is a case of the former.

I don't know how close the Lions and Culpepper are to a contract, but reports Monday that either he or the Chiefs canceled a pending workout in Kansas City -- he told that he was in negotiations with a team that was a "better fit" for him -- would indicate a signing could be imminent.

The bigger question is why the Lions, at 0-7, would want to sign a veteran quarterback rather than continue playing youngsters Dan Orlovsky and (eventually) Drew Stanton. There's next to no chance the Lions make the playoffs this year, and it would seem to be in the best interest of the organization to see what exactly it has in Orlovsky, a free-agent-to-be, and Stanton, last year's second-round pick, heading into this important offseason.

I don't have the answers to that, but it appears as if the Lions -- as Rod Marinelli has said all along -- are playing for now and believe Culpepper's big arm and veteran poise gives them the best chance to win.

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Losing 'a disease'; Dan's the man at QB

Like a lot of media members, I'm just about out of questions for Rod Marinelli at his Monday press conferences. The Lions shortcomings are evident, and there's little anyone can do to change them at this stage in the season.

Still, I found it interesting today when Marinelli said, "Losing is a disease." In fact, it's something that's afflicted this organization for a long time, so much so that players seem to expect defeat when things get close. Not consciously, of course, but there's a reason the Lions seem to give up more big plays on defense and have less success on offense than their NFL peers. They've got a lead on Minnesota? Pass-interference penalty to set up the game-winning field goal. They need a stop against Washington? Cory Redding tries to pick up a fumble, can't, and the Redskins tack on the game-clinching field goal. You can change team names (Green Bay) and insert different players (Paris Lenon) but the results remain the same.

Marinelli was asked Monday if he has the antidote to cure the disease, and he said the answer lies in "fundamentals (and) execution." Throw in talent and I'll agree. The Lions are woefully lacking in all three areas right now. That's why they're 0-7.

The other news that will get some play on the airwaves today and in tomorrow's papers is Marinelli's support of Dan Orlovsky as quarterback. Obviously, plenty of people are clamoring for Drew Stanton to get his shot under center. Asked Monday if the only way Stanton will play this year is through injury or if he wins the job in practice, Marinelli said, "Right. Yeah, that's always how I've tried to do it."

That doesn't mean what some people will have you believe, that Stanton won't play this year. Unless the Lions go on a serious winning streak, he will. The organization has to see what it's got in last year's second-round pick.

But Orlovsky has kept the Lions afloat in his three games as starter (no turnovers) and he deserves to remain there for the time being. Wins have to come at some point, but the Lions need to see what they have in Orlovsky, a free-agent-to-be, too. He could lose his job for any number of reasons, but there's no reason for Marinelli to publicly set a standard of play Orlovsky must maintain in the final days of October.

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Lions-Redskins recap

Rod Marinelli says he sees progress. I don’t.

The Lions lost their seventh game in as many tries this season, 25-17 to the Redskins. They’ve now lost 14 of 15 dating back to last year and there’s no end to the losing in the sight. A trip to Chicago awaits next week, and seven of the other eight teams on Detroit’s schedule have a .500 or better record. The one that doesn’t, the 3-4 Vikings, already beat the Lions this year.

Sunday’s loss was both predictable and agonizing. The Lions caught a few breaks early they didn’t take full advantage of -- a phantom facemask on Jon Jansen and a defensive holding call that nullified a Mike Furrey drop to name two -- then failed to make plays when necessary late. Clinton Portis, the NFL’s leading rusher, had a so-so first three quarters but broke a 31-yard run with Washington trying to run out the clock. A few plays later, Cory Redding tried to scoop and score a Jason Campbell fumble when he should have fell on the ball. The Redskins recovered and Shaun Suisham made a 42-yard field goal. On the Lions’ final drive, with an opportunity to tie the score, Brandon Middleton dropped a pass, Kevin Smith couldn’t get out of bounds on another and Calvin Johnson ran too shallow a drag route on fourth-and-3 and was stopped a yard short of a first down.

“It’s one of those things where, when you are losing every single mistake gets magnified,” quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. “That’s what the situation is here. Washington made plenty of mistakes today, I guarantee you, but they won. We need to shore up what we are doing. Why do they keep happening? I don’t know.”

The game, of course, was blacked out locally so here’s a few more insights from the Lions October-ending loss:

- Ramzee Robinson made a huge defensive gaffe when he hesitated on a third-quarter blitz. Instead of taking the clear path to Campbell, Robinson threw his hands up in the air to block a pass, giving the Redskins quarterback enough time to complete the go-ahead 50-yard touchdown strike to Santana Moss. If Dwight Smith or Gerald Alexander had been healthy, that might have been Kalvin Pearson blitzing, and Pearson would have made the play.

- The Lions made a more concerted effort to involve Johnson in the offense Sunday, though you wouldn’t know by the end results. He finished with four catches for 57 yards and one touchdown, and took an end-around on the Lions’ second offensive play. Johnson, who had just two catches and four passes thrown his way last week, lined up in the backfield at times (he caught his touchdown pass out of that formation) and the Lions motioned him all across the field.

- The Lions streak of scoreless first quarters ended at six when Rudi Johnson scored on an 11-yard run with 13 seconds left in the period. A few other disturbing trends continued, however. Washington dominated time of possession (35:45 to 24:15; the fifth time this year the Lions have held the ball at least 10 fewer minutes than their opponents), Detroit allowed 13 plays of more than 15 yards, and the Redskins finished with 439 total yards to the Lions’ 274.

- Campbell finished a near-perfect 23-of-28 passing for a season-high 328 yards. He became the sixth quarterback this year to set a career mark for efficiency rating (127.4) against the Lions. The only exception has been Minnesota’s Gus Frerotte.

- Orlovsky was 21-of-35 passing for 223 yards and again played interception-free football. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said he didn’t consider benching Orlovsky for Drew Stanton and offered this assessment of Orlovsky's play: "He's kept us in every game he's started, he's not turned the ball over. He's done a heck of a job of that, and sometimes, a young guy, he's too quick with the ball getting it out. He gets flustered and gets it out too quick. So you just keep working with him and he prepares every week, does a good job. We're still working with Drew and he's getting more reps. We're looking at both of them."

Samuels out for Washington

No surprises on the Lions inactive list. Safety Dwight Smith is out with a mid-foot sprain and linebacker Jordon Dizon is down because of a hamstring injury. Edwin Mulitalo is on the bench again, too. For Washington, left tackle Chris Samuels is out for undisclosed reasons. He was listed as probable Friday, when he missed practice for personal reasons. Samuels also had been battling a sprained knee. Safety Chris Horton (ankle) is another unexpected scratch for the Redskins, while defensive end Jason Taylor (calf) will play.

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Week 8 picks

The Redskins haven’t won a game by more than a touchdown this year. They’re favored by 7 1/2 points today against the Lions. So why am I taking the Redskins? Plain and simply, I don’t think the Lions can stop Clinton Portis. I expect Washington to control the clock with ease today at a half-empty Ford Field, Dan Orlovsky will have his first turnover as starter and the Redskins will win, 24-10.


Take that for what it’s worth. You know my record predicting Lions games. But I’m coming off a good week and ready to make the rest of my picks. As always, choices are against the spread and home teams are in caps:


Home covers you can’t deny

BALTIMORE minus-7 1/2 over Oakland

NY JETS minus-14 over Kansas City

DALLAS minus-2 over Tampa

NEW ENGLAND minus-7 1/2 over St. Louis

CAROLINA minus-4 over Arizona

JACKSONVILLE minus-7 over Cleveland

SAN FRANCISCO minus-5 1/2 over Seattle

TENNESSEE minus-4 over Indianapolis (Monday)


Road warriors laying with love

Buffalo minus-1 over MIAMI


Don’t need ’em, but I’ll take ’em

NEW ORLEANS plus-3 over San Diego

NY GIANTS plus-3 over Pittsburgh


Points only please

Atlanta plus-9 over PHILADELPHIA

Cincinnati plus-9 over HOUSTON


Record: Last week 9-5, overall 51-48-2


Lions-Redskins 3 keys

Video man extraordinaire Jim Martinez is off getting married this weekend -- congrats to Jim and his bride -- so Lions Lowdown takes to the written form again. At 0-6, the Lions are still searching for that first win. I don't think it's coming this weekend, but here's three things they need to do to prove me wrong:

• Get on the scoreboard early. The Lions have been outscored a combined 54-0 in the first quarter this year, the only team in the NFL to not score a point in the opening period. If they don't snap that streak Sunday, they'll tie the 1991 Packers and 1988 Buccaneers for the third longest dry spell to open a season since 1954, according to research done by STATS. (The record is nine; and the 1986 Lions posted eight straight scoreless first quarters.)

As much as I've banged on the Lions for not using Calvin Johnson enough, the real key is getting better field position. In the past two weeks, the Lions have started five drives inside their 5-yard line and five more inside the 20.

• Contain Clinton Portis. Portis leads the NFL in rushing yards (818) and the Lions rank 31st in rush defense (167.5 ypg allowed). That could be a recipe for disaster, especially when you consider the Lions' penchant for allowing big plays. The three best backs they've faced this year -- Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Michael Turner -- have all gone over 100 yards.

• Get something out of the return game. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said his team's ineffectiveness on kick and punt returns is a failure with roots in the offseason. Draft pick Kenny Moore didn't pan out as hoped and after Aveion Cason got hurt the Lions were forced to the turn the kick-return job over to Brandon Middleton. Middleton ranks 27th in the league with a 21.7-yard average and Shaun McDonald hasn't been much better on punt returns. The Lions don't need a touchdown out of this unit to win Sunday, but they need more production than they've had the first six weeks.

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Thursday leftovers

Emptying my notebook on a Thursday night:

• Maybe it's my journalistic instinct, but for the life of me I don't understand why the Lions have turned mum about lineup changes. Everyone who's stepped foot in the Lions locker room this week gets the sense that Gosder Cherilus replace George Foster as starter (again), but neither Rod Marinelli nor usually loose-lipped offensive coordinator Jim Colletto will confirm it.

"We kind of wait until Saturday to evaluate the whole week and see what's going to happen," Colletto said.

Right. Not only is their approach amateurish, it's a lie. Does you really think they don't have a good idea who's starting today? Marinelli said one reason he decided to stop talking about lineup changes is because of an erroneous report earlier this year. Only he didn't have anything to do with that report and if he wants to stop the speculating and reporters asking his players every day the best way is for him to come out and announce the changes himself.

• Incidentally, whenever it is that Drew Stanton replaces Dan Orlovsky as quarterback, $10 says the Lions make that decision public early in the week. They'll want the ticket bounce at Ford Field.

• In case you missed it about this weekend's blackout, the first in Ford Field history also happens to be the first in the NFL this year. At least the Lions lead the league in something.

• Colletto said John Standeford, signed last week after the Roy Williams trade, could see some time this week. Standeford spent a few minutes after practice Thursday catching punts. He said he's just trying to be ready for anything.

• Clinton Portis, obviously, makes the Redskins go. But it's unreal how long Washington quarterbacks have gone without throwing an interception (an NFL record 332 attempts dating back to last year).

• "They're doing a great job," Lions defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "The thing that a lot of people don't realize about (Redskins quarterback) Jason Campbell is he's big enough and athletic enough that he'll tuck the ball down and take off and run," Lions defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "He's not going to be silly with the ball where a lot of times, young quarterbacks with big arms, they think, 'Oh, I can get the ball in there.' He's not doing that. He's being smart."

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It's a blackout

Someone with a good sense of humor must be running local affiliate Fox-2's programming department. With the Lions blacked out on local television for the first time since Ford Field opened six years ago, the station is filling two hours of airtime Sunday (1-3 p.m.) with the movie "Best Laid Plans" — the non-Lions story.

OK, so the movie has nothing to do with one of the NFL's two remaining winless teams, but it's a pun-ful choice in the middle of an 0-6 season.

About 5,000 tickets still remained as of Thursday's 1 p.m. deadline, meaning the Lions will play in front of their first (official, at least) non-sellout since the second-to-last game at the Pontiac Silverdome in 2001. That's a span of 51 straight regular-season home games — the last 50 at Ford Field.

"It sucks. It's not fun. It doesn't make you feel good about yourself," quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "But I know this team won't get too caught up in it. It's a brutal reality that we're not doing enough right now to put fans in the seats."

The Lions toyed with blackouts several times last year and in their home-opener last month, when Gardner-White Furniture bought unsold seats to give away as part of in-store promotion.

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Smith 'a caged animal'

You know where I stand on Kevin Smith. He should start, he should get the bulk of the carries, he's the best running back the Lions have.

I asked Smith Monday if, going on the way he played last week against Houston (10 carries, 61 yards) and really all season (a very respectable 4.9 yards per carry), he felt he's earned the right to start.

"I can't say. My media guy's staring at me," Smith said, nodding at a Lions representative monitoring the interview. "No, seriously, I don't know. That's how it goes. I don't think it's even an issue. It's just whatever they feel. We're trying to get our offense rolling, whatever they feel they need to do to get our offense going that's what we're doing."

Within the context of this season — we're not talking changing offensive coordinators or drafting five new offensive linemen — the two things the Lions can do to jumpstart their offense are throw the ball to Calvin Johnson more and install Smith as the feature back. Johnson should have a minimum of 10 plays per game come his way, be they passes, reverses, whatever. He's the Lions' most dynamic offensive player and he needs to touch the ball.

Smith isn't the game-breaker that Johnson is, but he runs hard, plays at full speed and moves the chains when he has holes. Just as he sparked the Lions against Minnesota with a long run at the end of the first half, Smith helped make it a game against the Texans with back-to-back runs of 21 and 26 yards in the third quarter.

After the second went for a touchdown, he climbed the back wall Lambeau leap-style and slapped five with a fan sitting in the front row.

"I didn't know him," Smith said. "I'm just a caged animal who's ready to get out of the cage on the field. Stuff like that's going to happen when you try to contain a dog."

As for the possibility of regaining his starting job, Smith said he's put that to the back of his mind.

"My job is not to start right now. My job is to come in and contribute and make it happen," he said. "That's what I'm going to continue to do. I'm going to continue to come to practice and get better, and for me it's going to get better, I'm going to get better. I'm going to better myself as the season goes on. I want to come out of this rookie season with something. Come out, give 100 percent and hopefully give the fans some hope for the running game in the future."

Where the Dwight Smith injury hurts

Dwight Smith's foot injury won't hurt the Lions too much in the secondary. Kalvin Pearson has played well at safety the last two games, he fits into the Lions' more aggressive scheme with his blitzing prowess, and he's ready for his chance to be an NFL starter.

"That's everybody's dream," Pearson said Monday.

But Smith's absence -- Pearson described the injury as a sprain, though probably not a season-ender, and Lions coach Rod Marinelli admitted "it doesn't look good" before Smith underwent a CAT scan Monday afternoon -- will hurt the Lions on special teams.

In addition to being a solid nickel back (Travis Fisher should be healthy enough to reprise that role on full-time this weekend), Pearson is the Lions' most valuable player on their coverage units, which have been pretty good. He said he expects the Lions to "lighten up my load a little bit on special teams just to be more productive on defense."

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Lions-Texans postgame thoughts

You'll read plenty about it in all the papers tomorrow, but the first question I asked Rod Marinelli after Sunday's 28-21 loss to Houston was why the Lions didn't throw the ball to Calvin Johnson more.

Johnson is one of the most naturally gifted and potentially dominant players in the NFL and it makes no sense that the Lions threw just four passes his way Sunday. He caught two balls for 154 yards — one 96-yard touchdown bomb (the fourth longest pass play in Lions history) and one 58-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half. He also had a drop (admittedly, a problem he has to correct) and had one pass deflected by good coverage, and he touched the ball on a two-point conversion and a reverse.

I don't buy Marinelli's explanation that poor pass protection and excellent coverage made Johnson that insignificant in the gameplan. I'm sure it did on some plays — Dan Orlovsky made his second career start and I don't expect him to expose every hole in the defense — but the Lions have to do more to take advantage of Johnson's physical skill. Look at what Houston did with Andre Johnson. Granted the Texans ran the ball well early, but Johnson isn't exactly surrounded by Pro Bowlers and he still torched the Lions for 11 catches and 141 yards.

My beef from the get-go has been offensive coordinator Jim Colletto's unimaginative and/or untimely play calling. I believe that's the biggest thing wrong with this team right now.

A few other thoughts before I call it a night for an early flight back to Detroit:

• I don't know if the Lions got jobbed by a poor spot on the fourth-and-1 sneak or not. It was too tough to tell with the mass of bodies around the line of scrimmage. I do know, though, that their reputation as a losing organization does them no favors when it comes to the officials. Even subconsciously, it's easy to rationalize a blown call (like the missed pass interference on Shaun McDonald in the first quarter) against a bad team.

• The Lions had three more sacks and forced the game's only fumble, but they didn't do enough to harass Matt Schaub early. Schaub completed his first eight passes and finished 26-of-31 for the game. The Texans scored on drives of seven, eight and 10 plays on their first three possessions and had to convert just three third downs to get it done.

• Time to go back to Gosder Cherilus at right tackle. I don't recall George Foster as being poor in pass protection (though I'll wait to watch the replay to say for sure), but he did have two false-start penalties. Cherilus and Kevin Smith, building off my earlier post, should start the remaining 10 games on the schedule.

• I'm not going to slam Marinelli for not taking a timeout at the end of the first half. The Lions wasted about 15 seconds after Mike Furrey's third-down catch gave them first-and-10 at the 24 and ended up converting that Hail Mary to Johnson at the 8 as time expired. Asked about taking one timeout to the locker room after the game, Marinelli said, "At that point I didn't want them to get the ball. I didn't want to go down, field goal or (28-3). Things were building up on us at that point. I just wanted to get out of the half." The Lions trailed 21-3 at the time and Marinelli's right: They stood to do more harm than good had they taken a timeout with 30 seconds to play.

• Where would this team be without Jason Hanson?

Lions-Texans in-game thoughts

I never quite understood why the Lions benched Kevin Smith in favor of Rudi Johnson at running back. I know they've been sharing carries, but Smith is clearly the better back. He dances less, his the hole harder, is better in pass protection and is younger to boot. After watching Smith break two big runs and a touchdown on the last drive, there should be no reason he doesn't get the bulk of the carries (we're talking 75 percent or more) from here on out.

Safety Dwight Smith is on the sideline in street clothes with a boot on his left foot. He left the game in the first quarter. Don't know what his injury is at this point, but it doesn't look promising.

Cook to start

Damion Cook will make his first NFL start since 2004 today against the Texans. Cook replaces Edwin Mulitalo, who's inactive. Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto described Mulitalo as "fatigued" earlier this week.

Defensive tackle Chuck Darby (calf) and cornerback Travis Fisher (knee) also are inactive for the Lions, as is newly signed receiver John Standeford. Shaun Cody will start in place of Darby, Brian Kelly in place of Fisher, and rookie defensive tackle Andre Fluellen is active for the first time this year.

Week 7 picks

If you've followed my picks at all this year you know I haven't been the best at predicting Lions games. I said they'd lose big last week and it was a two-point game. I expected a little Matt Millen bounce against the Bears and it was a blowout. I thought they'd cover on the road at San Francisco and Mike Martz had his way.

This week I'm going with Houston to cover the 9 1/2 point spread because I don't think the Lions have the offense to stay with the Texans. Calvin Johnson might get loose for a touchdown. Dan Orlovsky will do his best to manage the game. The Texans lead the NFL in turnovers. Still, I'm not sure the Lions have more than three scores in them -- with a couple of those being field goals. My pick: Houston 27-13.

Now for the rest of my picks. As always, choices are against the spread and home teams are in caps:

Home covers you can't deny
BUFFALO minus-1 over San Diego
CHICAGO minus-3 over Minnesota
CAROLINA minus-3 over New Orleans
NY GIANTS minus-10 1/2 over San Francisco
TAMPA BAY minus-10 1/2 over Seattle
NEW ENGLAND minus-3 over Denver

Home dogs that bite
OAKLAND plus-3 over NY Jets

Road warriors laying with love
Pittsburgh minus-9 1/2 over CINCINNATI
Dallas minus 7 1/2 over ST. LOUIS
Indianapolis minus-1 1/2 over GREEN BAY

Don't need 'em, but I'll take 'em
Baltimore plus-3 over MIAMI

Points only please
KANSAS CITY plus-9 over Tennessee
Cleveland plus-7 1/2 over WASHINGTON

Record: 8-6 last week, 42-43-2 overall

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Lions-Texans keys to victory

Time constraints and the news events of the week -- Roy Williams' trade and Jon Kitna's going on injured reserve -- preempted our weekly Lions Lowdown video segment, but here's my three keys to a Detroit victory, which I don't think is coming this week:

• Protect Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky was mediocre in his first career NFL start last week. He did a good job managing the game considering the Lions' poor field position and threw for 150 yards, but he also ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety and was sacked six times. Houston's defensive front isn't on par with Minnesota's -- the Texans have just seven sacks this year -- but Mario Williams is one of the most dominent defensive ends in the game. Orlovsky needs time to work if the Lions are going to keep up with Houston's high-powered offense.

• Balance the blitz. The Lions did a great job of getting to Minnesota's Gus Frerotte with a stream of blitzes last week and they want to pressure Houstons' Matt Schaub tomorrow. But Schaub is more mobile than Frerotte and the Lions haven't been great containing quarterbacks this year. Receiver Andre Johnson is problematic, too, especially when he's left in one-on-one coverage. It's up to defensive coordinator Joe Barry to find the right balance between keeping Schaub on his heels and preventing big plays.

• Win the turnover battle. That, more than anything, is why the Lions stayed in the game so long last week. They forced three turnovers, including an Adrian Peterson fumble on the goal line, and when they couldn't put the game away it was because of their own mistake (a disputed Calvin Johnson fumble in Minnesota territory). Houston is last in the NFL with a minus-8 turnover ratio' the Lions are tied for 29th at minus-4. Whoever wins the battle stands a good chance of winning the game.

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Thursday thoughts

I guess I didn't expect the NFL to make any statements about the two blown calls in last week's Lions-Vikings game. Unless it's something as blatant as Ed Hochuli's mistake eariler this year, the league rarely speaks on these matters.

Still, I've watched replays of Leigh Bodden's pass-interference penalty and Calvin Johnson's fumble over and over and I don't get either one, for different reasons. There was incidental contact on the Bodden play, but Bodden had his head turned and was playing the ball for at least 15 yards. That should have been a no call. On Johnson's fumble, I never saw a beanbag come out to signal the ball was even loose. It seems like, because a whistle never blew, officials let the play go on then decided after the fact and errantly it was a fumble. Just my two cents.

On to some comments from coordinators Joe Barry and Jim Colletto:

• Barry said the defense's play last week (three forced fumbles, five sacks) should be "the standard of the way we're going to play the rest of the year." It's true the Lions played 10 times better defensively than they did in their first four games when they allowed an average of 36.7 points, but I tend to agree with safety Dwight Smith on this one. "I'm not happy with how we played," Smith said. "We gave up 400 yards of offense, I never seen where that was good. ... You get caught up being 0-4, 0-5, you look for any ray of light. But I don't live that way."

• Colletto said there will be changes on the offensive line. George Foster is starting at right tackle again over rookie Gosder Cherilus, Stephen Peterman could return at right guard and Damion Cook has practiced in front of Edwin Mulitalo this week, though Colletto did not say which left guard will start. "We're doing a lot of mixing and matching right now," he said. "Trying to find the right combination."

• I imagine we'll see Cherilus starting again before too long, but I don't get the move in general. Why bench your first-round pick in the middle of a season that should be focused on the future? One player who shall remain nameless told me he believes this is a case of coaches fighting to save their jobs.

• Dan Orlovsky is taking about 80 percent of the reps at quarterback in practice this week, with Drew Stanton getting the other 20, Colletto said. Looks like Orlovsky will have a bit of a leash under center. I still expect Stanton to get a shot this year, but it won't be next week when the Lions return home to face Washington, unless Orlovsky gets injured.

• One play Colletto said he'd like a do-over on is Jerome Felton's fullback dive on third-and-1 in the third quarter last week. Felton was stuffed for no gain on the play, his first NFL carry. I didn't find fault in the call itself so much as I did in the decision to motion Rudi Johnson out of the backfield before the snap. That play only works if Johnson's a threat to carry the ball, too. "Really it was just a straight old high-school dive play, to be honest with you," Colletto said. "We didn't block the back-side guys very well and somebody we didn't even expect to be involved in the play hit the fullback before he got to where he was going."

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Hanson: Williams, Kitna moves 'the logical conclusion of not being good'

In case you missed my story Thursday's paper about the locker-room reaction to Tuesday's trade of Roy Williams and the Lions' decision to put Jon Kitna on injured reserve, here are some comments from kicker Jason Hanson, the team's reigning vet, that I thought were on point:

"For me it's the logical conclusion of not being good again as a team. I love my teammates and I think everybody's been trying and working, but this is the stuff that happens when you're not good for too long. So, no, I'm not surprised."

Asked if the moves were a sign the front office had give up on the season, Hanson said no. "I think what it means is this is a serious business. Everybody in here's paid a lot of money and when you don't do what you're supposed to do you're expendable, everyone of us. And I don't mean those two, I mean all of us. And when you're 0-5 after being bad for seven years then changes are going to happen and good players can be gotten rid of. ... I don't think it should be interpreted as giving up, it's just, hey, do your job because new guys will be coming in every Tuesday until you do."

For the record, I wouldn't qualify what the Lions did Tuesday as giving up on the season, either. The season was already pretty shot, they recognized the depth of their situation and mae a move for the betterment of their future. Are they a better team with Roy Williams on the field? Absolutely. With Jon Kitna under center? That's debatable. Either way, they're not a playoff team.

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Analyzing the Williams trade

Martin Mayhew might have me fooled. He might be the best poker player the Lions have known. But after talking to a few people about Tuesday's Roy Williams trade, I'm convinced Mayhew was not out to deal the one-time Pro Bowl receiver at any cost, and that's why he was able to fleece the Cowboys. Well, that and Jerry Jones.

The Lions were indeed working the phones heavily in the 24 hours before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline. They toed the water, liked how it felt, and preferred to deal Williams if at all possible.

But they weren't going to give him up for market rate (a first-round pick, in my outsider opinion) when they could move him next spring for the same price. To get this deal done the Lions needed more, and Dallas, desperate to make a move after being hard hit by injuries and suspensions, was eager enough to meet Mayhew's patient demands.

I think the Lions got the better of this deal. A first-, third- and sixth-round pick in exchange for a frustrated No. 2 receiver and a seventh-rounder is a no-brainer. Jones, no doubt, would see it differently. Williams, 26, is a very good talent who enhances the Cowboys' chances of winning the Super Bowl. He'll be a Cowboy and be happy in that role for a long time (he signed an extension within minutes of the trade), and Dallas had the draft picks to spare.

The key for the Lions now is to make the most of their draft picks. They'll likely have five of the first 100 choices next April (their own picks in Rounds 1-3 plus Dallas' first and third), but remember they were already operating in the red, short a 2009 fourth-rounder from maneuvering last April.

Still, this is a great deal for the Lions, who helped their ongoing rebuilding project at little present cost. They're a slightly worse football team today than they were last week, but with Williams and quarterback Jon Kitna gone -- Kitna's on injured reserve -- there's enough harmony to believe they might eventually win a game.

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Lions trade Williams

WXYT's Tony Ortiz reported moments ago that the Lions have traded Roy Williams to the Cowboys for at least a first-round pick. I confirmed that a deal has been reached with a league source moments ago, though I don't know the exact terms. Either way, I think the deal is a feather in the cap for new general manager Martin Mayhew. Had the Lions waited until the offseason, when they would have franchised Williams and tried dealing him, it's unlikely they would have received a better deal. Also, the Lions just confirmed my report from this morning that Jon Kitna has been placed on injured reserve. Dan Orlovsky is the Lions' new starting quarterback. I'll have more information later after talking to all parties involved.

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Kitna to IR

With no trades in the works, the Lions decided this morning to place quarterback Jon Kitna on injured reserve. The decision should be announced later today.

Kitna suffered a back injury in the first half of the Lions' 34-7 loss to Chicago two weeks ago. He did not play last week against Minnesota and did not travel with the team.

Dan Orlovsky completed 12-of-21 passes for 150 yards in Kitna's place against the Vikings and will make his second career start this week at Houston.

Kitna, who has muscular damage in his lower back, finishes the season with 758 yards passing, five touchdowns and five interceptions. He never seemed to buy fully into new coordinator Jim Colletto's offense, and, with one year left on his contract, may have played his last game as a Lion.

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Alexander update

Lions safety Gerald Alexander's neck injury is not believed to be career-threatening. In fact, he tried to convince the Lions he could play again this year.

Alexander was placed on injured reserve Monday, a day after he suffered a hairline fracture of a vertebrae and disk trauma trying to tackle Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Typically, recovery time is 8-to-10 weeks, but the Lions' medical staff was uncomfortable with Alexander trying to rush back -- and for good reason.

After the game, Alexander tried to persuade doctors he didn't need further medical attention -- he was moving his neck and walking around fine -- while they studied his X-ray by light of the locker room with a backboard nearby.

Jerome Stanley, Alexander's agent, said Alexander has not yet decided whether to undergo surgery to correct the problem. A decision on that should be made in the coming weeks, after Alexander receives a second opinion on his treatment options.

More news on the injury front:

• Cornerback Travis Fisher said he will seek a second opinion on his knee injury, which he described as a bruised LCL. He did not play against the Vikings.

• Right guard Stephen Peterman could return as soon as this week from his broken hand. The issue is whether Peterman, who's missed two games, can wear a small enough cast to keep his index and middle fingers mobile and allow him to clutch and grab with opposing linemen. That should be determined later this week.

• Running back Kevin Smith suffered a bruised shoulder in the first quarter against the Vikings, but he said a CAT scan and X-rays were negative and he should play against Houston this week. Smith's big run, a 50-yarder, came late in the second quarter, before the injury swelled up at halftime.

"I went in (in the third quarter) and got a penalty trying to pass block because I was too weak so I had to hold him," SMith said. "So then I was like maybe I need to come out so I don't affect the team, especially when we're trying to get that win and the game's real close. Just had to make that decision. I really wanted to keep playing, but didn't want to hurt the team."

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Kitna likely headed to IR

Jon Kitna may have played his last game as a Lion.

The Lions intend to place Kitna on injured reserve if they can't trade him by Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline, a source familiar with the decision-making process said. The source put the chances of Kitna landing on IR, and thus ending his season, at "95 to 98 percent."

Kitna suffered a back injury two weeks ago in the first half of a loss to Chicago. He did not play last week against Minnesota and did not travel with the team after a visit to a specialist Friday revealed possible muscular damage in his lower back. Originally, he was said to have only back spasms.

The injury is not career threatening and is treatable with rest, meaning Kitna could return this year and thus be a worthwhile backup for a contender. No teams had expressed interest in trading for him as of Monday night.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli was elusive when talking about Kitna at his press conference Monday, and Kitna's agent, Mike Moye, declined comment. Kitna told the Associated Press that he'll "eventually be able to play. I don't know if it will be this week."

Regardless, Dan Orlovsky will make his second career start this week against Houston. Orlovsky was 12-of-21 passing for 150 yards in a 12-10 loss to the Vikings. He said Monday no one has informed him he'll start against the Texans.

Kitna, 36, started the first 36 games of his Lions career. He topped 4,000 yards passing each of the las two seasons, but never appeared comfortable in new coordinator Jim Colletto's offense.

He has one year left on his contract, and with 2007 second-round pick Drew Stanton waiting in the wings it's unclear if Kitna will return next year as a Lion.

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Lions should stick with Orlovsky

Dan Orlovsky wasn't great in his first NFL start — he completed just 12-of-21 passes for 150 yards — but in my opinion he was good enough to earn a second start next week against Houston.

Orlovsky played turnover-free football in the Lions' 12-10 loss to the Vikings Sunday, which is more than Jon Kitna's done all year.

"He managed the game well," running back Rudi Johnson said. "That's what we asked him to do."

Kitna missed his first start in 37 games because of a back injury, and there's no telling how long he'll be out. He didn't spend much time around the Lions' Allen Park headquarters last week and wasn't there when the team met Saturday to leave for the airport. It's possible he may never start again as a Lion, either because of the injury, because the trade deadline is this week, or because it's time to see more of young quarterbacks Orlovsky and Drew Stanton.

Orlovsky, who said Kitna called to wish him luck Sunday morning, took ownership of the offense like any starting quarterback should. Pinned at his own 3 the first time the Lions touched the ball, Orlovsky told his teammates, "Let's go on a 97-yard touchdown drive." They didn't, but that kind of confidence is commendable.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli wouldn't commit to Orlovsky as his starter for next week, but Orlovsky sounded like the job was his after the game.

"Right now my mindset is this is my football team, absolutely," he said.

As for how he played, Orlovsky, who missed several pass and stepped out of the back of the end zone for a safety, said there's plenty of room for improvement.

"I just think at the end of the day I didn't do enough at this position," he said. "That's tough to swallow. I'm not going to gauge my performance other than I just didn't do enough for a win."

• Here's my take on Sunday's two disputed calls: On Calvin Johnson's fumble, I don't think referee Tony Corrente had enough to overturn the call on the field, whatever it was. Johnson's hand appeared to be under the ball as he hit the ground, but a hand on the ball doesn't equal full possession. On Leigh Bodden's pass-interference penalty, that flag never should have been thrown. Bodden nudged receiver Aundrae Allison, but not enough to affect a second-and-20 pass that wasn't going to be complete. There's at least that much contact on most contested pass plays in the NFL, and there was more on the non-interference call on Calvin Johnson midway through the third quarter.

• One gaffe Orlovsky made aside from the safety was burning the Lions' second timeout with 4:54 to play. "My phones cut out and I couldn't hear Drew sending in the call," Orlovsky explained. "I wasn't going to try and force or just make up a call. It's a critical point in the game and I trust Jim (Colletto) and Kippy (Brown) to come up with something that will be successful. So it's better for them to call it than for me to call it." I understand the thinking. It was third-and-6 and the Lions were trying to kill the clock and get a first down to preserve their 10-9 lead, but there were 18 seconds on the playclock when Orlovsky asked for time. That's enough clock to signal in a play. At the very least, Orlovsky should have ran time down before taking the timeout.

• Not having that timeout came back to haunt the Lions when Gerald Alexander got hurt on the first play after the two-minute warning. That cost the Lions their final timeout, and Minnesota ran the next 1:35 off the clock before Ryan Longwell's game-winning 26-yard field with nine seconds to play.

• Alexander stayed overnight Sunday in Minneapolis to undergo further tests on his neck. He said there were no fractures, but medical staff at the Metrodome wheeled a backboard into the locker room to transport Alexander to a local hospital. "It feels like a stinger, but x-rays say something different," Alexander said. "We're just taking precaution."

• I'll leave you with a two quotes:
- From Marinelli, on the Lions' defense which forced a season-high three turnovers and five sacks but didn't do enough to win: "I thought they competed very well but you have to win those games. ... You fight, but you fight to win."
- From receiver Roy Williams, on the pain of losing such a close game: "It hurts. It hurts more than the first four. The first four we weren't even in the ballgame. This one we were more competitive. Don't take this wrong (but) I don't mind losing as long as we lose something like that. Once we get blown out, that's unacceptable."

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Trading Roy unlikely

Tony Gonzalez might get his wish and a way out of Kansas City by Tuesday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, but I don't expect Roy Williams to be going anywhere.

The Lions, as always, will listen to offers and be in contact with potential suitors, but the feeling here is they're in no rush to move Williams when they can keep him around for 11 more weeks and get the same compensation (more, maybe) in an offseason deal.

Williams is a free-agent-to-be and the Lions' likely will look to franchise him in the offseason with the intent of trading him for players and/or draft picks. The Chiefs did it last year with Jared Allen (to Minnesota for a first-rounder) and the Packers with Corey Williams (to Cleveland for a second).

If I was running the Lions I'd take the Miami approach — the Dolphins traded Chris Chambers to San Diego at last year's deadline for a second-round pick. But I'm not, and those who are still believe they can turn the season around.

A couple other Sunday notes: put the over/under at 1 1/2 for number of starts Drew Stanton makes this year. If I was a gambler, I'd go over. Dan Orlovsky will make his first NFL start today and Jon Kitna could be back in the lineup if he's healthy next week against Houston, but I still think Stanton will get soon. (I'm thinking next month now, either Nov. 9 against Jacksonville or Nov. 23 against Tampa Bay). Once Stanton's in, he's there to stay.

Cliff Avril is active again today in place of Ikaika Alama-Francis. The Lions want to counter Adrian Peterson's rushing ability with speedy linemen, and Avril fits the bill after playing well in 31 snaps last week against Chicago. Avril could be the rare good draft find by Matt Millen. He'll have a role with the Lions no matter who the coach is and what system they run next year (Avril could be a 3-4 outside linebacker).

Lastly, don't expect much out of Rudi Johnson in his first start today. The Vikings have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and I can't see the Lions in position to run the ball much at the Metrodome. I'm also predicting six sacks by Minnesota today and some mop-up duty for Stanton late.

Week 6 picks

After picking the Lions to win last week and cover two weeks before against San Francisco, I've learned my lesson. This is a bad football team, not a bad first month, and it's not changing anytime soon.

Dan Orlovsky will start over Jon Kitna at quarterback today and Rudi Johnson finally gets his first start as a Lion. I wouldn't expect either to have much success against Minnesota's defensive front, and of course neither solves the Lions' biggest dilemma - stopping Adrian Peterson.

With that said, I've got Minnesota covering the 13 1/2 points today. I know the Vikings have had trouble scoring at times, but that won't be an issue today.

Here's the rest of my Week 6 picks. As always, picks are against the spread and home teams are in caps:

Home covers you can't deny
NY JETS minus-9 1/2 over Cincinnati
TAMPA BAY minus-1 1/2 over Carolina
HOUSTON minus-3 over Miami
WASHINGTON minus-12 1/2 over St. Louis
SEATTLE minus-1 over Green Bay
SAN DIEGO minus-5 over New England
NEW ORLEANS minus-7 over Oakland
INDIANAPOLIS minus-4 over Baltimore

Home dogs that bite
CLEVELAND plus-7 1/2 over NY Giants (Monday)

Road warriors laying with love
Philadelphia minus-4 1/2 over SAN FRANCISCO
Dallas minus-4 1/2 over ARIZONA
Chicago minus-3 over ATLANTA

Don't need 'em, but I'll take 'em
Jacksonville plus-3 over DENVER

Record: Last week 5-9, 34-37-2 overall


Lions Lowdown: Previewing the Bears


Kitna sits again Thursday

Jon Kitna missed his second straight day of practice with back spasms Thursday and his status for Sunday's game at Minnesota remains up in the air.

Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky said he has no gut feeling one way or another who will be under center against the Vikings, and Kitna bee-lined out of the locker room without saying a word when reporters were let in following practice.

Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said Kitna could play Sunday even if he misses another day of practice tomorrow.

"As I said before, all these things he's done a lot of times so it's not like he wouldn't know what to do," Colletto said. "It's not the most helpful (if he doesn't practice), but it doesn't rule him out."

Orlovsky remains the likely starter if Kitna can't go. Colletto said Thursday the gameplan "would be even further cut back if" No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton was under center.

More notes from Thursday:

• Colletto said Stephen Peterman will miss his second game this weekend with a broken hand. "He can't play," Colletto said. "He can't grab. Somebody asked about their front guys, you're going to play with a cast on your hand with these guys? No way. So he's not ready to play yet."

• Running backs Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson are expected to share carries again, though what order remains to be seen. Smith made his fourth straight start last Sunday after saying earlier in the week he'd been told by coaches that Johnson would start. Colletto said he intended to start the rookie Smith all along.

• Defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Brian Kelly was unintentionally held out of last week's loss to Chicago. Kelly, who lost his starting job with a poor performance against Green Bay, dressed but did not see the field as Keith Smith played as the Lions' third cornerback. Barry said the coaching staff realized Kelly did not play "in the locker room after the game." "It was just a mishap on our part that he didn't play," Barry said.

• Kelly said he believed Barry's explanation, but wasn't pleased nonetheless. "Obviously I was unhappy with it," he said. "I'm suited up to play. If I'm standing there with my T-shirt on and sweats and a Lions cap I know I'm not playing. But I was suited up to play and it didn't work out that way."

• Kelly, Dewayne White, Roy Williams and Cory Redding were mentioned in a report listing 10 players with the most trade value possibly on the block heading into next week's deadline. "It would surprise me if I was not here," Kelly said.

• White said he doesn't want to go anywhere. "We're going to turn this thing around," he said. "You got to be in it for the good and the bad."


Winless and waiting

The Lions may not be favored to win another game this year, but at some point it's going to happen. No one goes winless in the NFL. Think of the irony, though, if a team with so many Tampa Bay castoffs becomes the first ever to go 0-16 — 32 years after the original Buccaneers went 0-14 and set a modern-day record for futility. The symmetry.

Of the four winless teams left — the Lions, Rams and Texans are 0-4, the Bengals 0-5 — Detroit has the best chance of going 0-for-the-season.

Houston should have won last week when it Sage'd away an upset of the Colts. As it is, the Texans will get their first victory before the month's out. They host Miami this week, the Lions next and the Bengals on Oct. 26. They may be 3-4 before Halloween.

The Bengals have a sure win at the end of the season when they host Kansas City, but they won't let it get that far. If Carson Palmer's healthy, they could upset the Jets this week or the Steelers next (depending on Pittsburgh's own health). If not, well, they still play Houston and Cleveland.

St. Louis has a more favorable schedule than the Bengals and Lions, but the Rams are the worst team in the NFL and will be 0-7 after games at Washington, against Dallas and at New England in the next three weeks. Still, with home games against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Seahawks and 49ers before Christmas, they're bound to win eventually.

The Lions? Like I said, there's not a sure thing left on the schedule. I thought maybe they'd beat Washington Oct. 26 at Ford Field, but I've changed my mind. The Redskins are playing as well as anyone in the NFL right now. Ditto with the Thanksgiving game against Tennessee. The Titans have the best defense in the NFL.

Still, somehow the Lions will manage a couple wins. Maybe an upset at Carolina, maybe a home defeat of New Orleans. If not, the circle of life will be complete.


No-huddle no more

I give the Lions credit for their decision to run lots of no-huddle offense in Sunday's loss to the Bears. Their base package was so bad in the previous three games something had to be done to reinvigorate players and coaches, and schematically the move was sound in that it was designed to force Chicago's defensive hand and give quarterback Jon Kitna a better read on blitzes.

Practically, however, the offense failed for several reasons. First, Kitna is no Peyton Manning, and asking him to make so many reads and adjustments at the line of scrimmage -- all the gesturing was by design -- is a recipe for disaster. Second, though the Lions first installed the offense last month, they really only worked on it in practice last week. They didn't try it at all during training camp, and their rust showed in several miscommunications between Kitna and his receivers or up front on the offensive line.

Lastly, the move was doomed by makeup. The Lions started three rookies (right tackle Gosder Cherilus, running back Kevin Smith and fullback Jerome Felton) and a right guard making essentially his NFL debut (Manny Ramirez), and both their top receivers have shown a propensity for mental lapses on the field.

When the Lions finally started to move the ball midway through the second quarter, that perfect storm of inexperience stopped them dead in their tracks. On second-and-2 from the Chicago 42, someone failed to properly diagnose a blitz. A screen play was called. Center Dominic Raiola stood his ground to block middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who dropped into pass coverage, and Ramirez steered defensive tackle Marcus Harrison outside to no one before peeling upfield to block for Rudi Johnson. A split second later, Kitna was dropped for a 7-yard loss, and Chicago went on to score six plays later and take a 17-0 lead.

"I just think, especially when you're playing three or four young guys, it's too much sometimes," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "Too many checks for them, maybe. So I just want to get back to doing something well."

Marinelli said the Lions will scrap the no-huddle as their predominant offensive philosophy heading into this week's game at Minnesota. In all likelihood, that was going to happen anyway as gameplans change from week to week in the NFL.

"I think when you're not doing anything well you kind of pull back and just go right back to the very basics, kind of where we're at," Marinelli said. "I think we've kind of evolved away from preseason too much, so I want to kind of get back to that and just keep pounding the run."

Trouble is, the run hasn't been effective either and there's little reason to believe that will change (especially against Minnesota's good defensive front). Still, on Monday players seemed content with that decision as they try anything and everything to dig out of their 0-4 hole.

"I'm totally blown away with what's going on right now," receiver Mike Furrey said. "It's a struggle. We're human and it's a struggle to come in here every day knowing that what we expected is not what it is right now. We're on the total opposite of what we even thought we'd be right now."

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Lions-Bears postgame thoughts

Wow. Where to begin. The Lions were utterly atrocious, even embarrassing in Sunday's 34-7 loss to the Bears. It was their most lopsided home loss since a 41-9 defeat to Indianapolis on Thanksgiving Day 2004, and in many ways it was worse.

The Lions still haven't scored in the first quarter this year (38-0). They had minus-4 yards of offensive in Sunday's opening period and gained negative or no yards on their first four offensive plays. Worst of all, coming off a bye week, they looked lifeless and unprepared.

If you missed it, Detroit used some no-huddle offense Sunday and moved the ball effectively every once in a while. More often than not, they stubbed their toe with penalties or missed assignments. Jon Kitna was bad again (8-of-16, 74 yards), and he was benched at halftime with a case of back spasms for Dan Orlovsky.

Orlovsky was no better. He threw an interception returned for a touchdown on his second pass of the game and so wildly overshot one fourth-quarter pass that referee Scott Green had to announce there was no intentional grounding because "the quarterback was not under pressure."

It's hard to imagine things getting better anytime soon. Kitna said he'll re-assess his back later in the week, and Lions coach Rod Marinelli was non-committal on who his starter will be next week against Minnesota. No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton warmed up at halftime. I don't imagine the Lions want to start him on the road, against a good Minnesota front, but it might come down to that.

Receiver Roy Williams said Kitna should remain the starter going forward despite his subpar season (six turnovers, five TD passes).

"No question about it," Williams said. "He's our guy."

Williams also voiced support for Marinelli, who answered questions from reporters in in an uncomfortable postgame news conference with vice president Tom Lewand standing a few feet to his left.

"I stand behind Rod all day long," Williams said. "That's my guy. He don't need to change nothing. I don't know what it is, but Rod is the guy that guy, he's the coach that everybody respects."

Lewand wasn't as supportive. Asked if he believes Marinelli is the right man for the job and capable of turning things around, Lewand spoke of the "tremendous, tremendous respect" he has for a coach who will "continue to do things right." Never once did he say Marinelli will finish out the year.

I thought all along that would be the case, but I'm not so sure now. There's little Marinelli can do to save his job — offensive coordinator Jim Colletto deserves part of the blame for a horrific offense and the talent on the team is subpar, but Marinelli is out of scapegoats.

The Lions desperately need to trade Williams if possible to help the next the coach and general manager build toward the future. They need to start playing more of the younger players — Jordon Dizon, Landon Cohen, Stanton — immediately. And most of all they need badly to win a game.

That seems unlikely, but without a victory soon there's no telling how low this season can sink.

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Week 5 NFL picks

I said in a web video segment I did earlier this week with Fox 2's Woody Woodriffe that the Lions would beat the Bears today, 21-20, and I can't go away from that now. I guess I'm expecting a little bit of a Matt Millen bounce at home before the Lions resort to losing football on the road next week.

That means I'm taking the Lions plus 3 1/2 points to beat the Bears. Here's the rest of my Week 5 picks. As always, picks are against the spread and home teams are in caps:

Home covers you can't deny
PHILADELPHIA minus-6 1/2 over Washington
GREEN BAY minus-3 1/2 over Atlanta
NY GIANTS minus-7 over Seattle
DENVER minus-3 1/2 over Tampa Bay
ARIZONA minus-1 1/2 over Buffalo
JACKSONVILLE minus-5 1/2 over Pittsburgh

Home dogs that bite
BALTIMORE plus-2 1/2 over Tennessee
HOUSTON plus-3 over Indianapolis

Road warriors laying with love
New England minus-3 over SAN FRANCISCO
San Diego minus-6 1/2 over MIAMI

Points only, please
Kansas City plus-10 over CAROLINA
Cincinnati plus-16 over DALLAS

Don't need 'em, but I'll take 'em
Minnesota plus-3 over NEW ORLEANS (Monday)

Record: 9-4 last week, 29-28-2 overall

Stanton still No. 3 and rule out one GM candidate

Don't expect Drew Stanton to make his NFL debut today against the Bears, even in mop-up duty.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Friday Stanton is still third on the depth chart at quarterback, behind Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky. Stanton, of course, is just making his way back from a right thumb injury. Marinelli said he looked "OK" during practice last week, but probably won't be ready for game action for a few more weeks.

"It's hard," Marinelli said. "It'd be a couple more weeks just to get the feel of it and just get in a rhythm, a timing rhythm of throwing and verbage and all those things."

If the Lions' struggles continue, I still think Stanton could assume the starter's role as soon as Oct. 26 against Washington or Nov. 9 against Jacksonville.

Also, anyone who thought former Packers general manager Ron Wolf might be wooed out of retirement to help rebuild the Lions, either as GM or a consultant, think again. I spoke with Wolf briefly Saturday. He said he has no interest in returning to the game in an active fashion and is enjoying retirement. In fact, he just returned from a trip to Germany and didn't know the whole story surrounding Matt Millen's firing.

Wolf did have good things to say about current Green Bay director of football operations Reggie McKenzie. McKenzie's a name I think should be on the Lions' short list of candidates, and Wolf trumpeted his background scouting in both pro and college and handling contracts.

"To me he's a very special person," Wolf said.

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In this corner

A lot was made yesterday of Joe Barry's comments that Leigh Bodden is the Lions' new starting left cornerback (he started there against San Francisco after opening the season on the right side) while Brian Kelly and Travis Fisher will play right corner.

I talked to one defensive back in the locker room today and he said the switch means absolutely nothing. In the Lions defense, cornerbacks have the same responsibility no matter what side they play. The only time that changes is for the nickel cornerback, who's a linebacker in some coverages and a corner in others. The right corner may match up with an opponent's X receiver more often — in a typical pro set, the X or No. 1 receiver usually splits wide of the left tackle on the opposite side of the tight end — but that's so convoluted by gameplans and formations and pre-snap movement that corners have to be able to cover no matter where they line up.

Basically, the move comes down to who feels comfortable where. Both Kelly and Bodden started on the left side in their former haunts, Kelly in Tampa Bay and Bodden in Cleveland, while Fisher has plays everywhere including nickel. Kelly briefly lost his starting job earlier this year.

"He started out playing right corner and now he's playing left corner, which he's totally comfortable with and feels fine with," Barry said of Bodden. "When you're 0-3 you've got to move some people around and try some different things. We decided to do that. Obviously, we wanted to make sure the players were comfortable with it and they were."

Bodden, by the way, missed practice Friday with a calf injury and is questionable for Sunday's game.

A few other Friday practice notes:

• Expect defensive end Cliff Avril to be active against the Bears as the Lions try to generate more pass rush against Kyle Orton. Avril and fellow rookie linemen Landon Cohen and Andre Fluellen stayed after practice Friday to sharpen their technique with defensive-line coach Joe Cullen. "Since we're not getting as many reps as the other guys, trying to be ready whenever our opportunity comes to make an impact," Avril said.

• From quarterback Jon Kitna on the Lions' decision to open up their offense more: "I just think we have tried to determine what our best personnel package is and I think the feeling is that that is with three wide receivers, whether that be with two backs in the backfield or three wides with a tight end and one back in the backfield. I think that's what we're trying to do is identify what gives us the best chance to put seven points on the board, and I think right now we're saying that we think that might be our three wide receivers."

• Sports Illustrated's Peter King indicated earlier this week that the Cowboys still might be willing to trade a first-round pick for receiver Roy Williams. I love Williams. He's colorful in the locker room, a great quote and a good player, but don't you have to work that deal if you're the Lions? Chances are you'll be getting pick No. 30, 31 or 32, but it's not a cap-killing choice, you're already short a fourth-rounder next year (Dallas, coincidentally, owns that) and there could be a glut of receivers on the market after the season (Chad Johnson, Anquan Boldin and others).

• The only way I wouldn't take that deal, by the way, is if the Lions win the next two games. At 2-3 with division wins over the Bears and Vikings, you've got to stay the course and try to make the playoffs.

• The Lions avoided the first blackout in Ford Field history when they sold their remaining tickets before 1 p.m. Friday. That good quote Williams had this take on the possibility of a blackout: "That's on us. Everybody loves a winner. Oh-and-three, they ain't going to show up. Baseball, you're terrible, they don't show up. You're a winner, they show up. That's on us."

• A reporter also pointed out that the 50-year curse former Lions quarterback Bobby Layne supposedly placed on the franchise when he was traded to Pittsburgh ends Monday. "That's what I read," Williams said. "We play on Sunday, though."


Williams misses practice, other Thursday notes

Receiver Roy Williams missed Thursday's practice with a bruised knee. The injury doesn't appear too serious as Williams stayed involved in receiver drills, throwing passes to to his fellow wideouts during a four-cone drill and providing half-hearted defense when they were running routes.

Right guard Stephen Peterman and backup tackle George Foster will miss Sunday's game with hand and knee injuries, respectively. Foster hyper-extended his right knee in practice Monday and had to have excess swelling and blood drained. Peterman has a broken hand.

Coordinators Jim Colletto (offense), Joe Barry (defense) and Stan Kwan (special teams) also met with reporters Thursday. Some highlights:

• Kwan said it's possible the Bears will use both Devin Hester and Danieal Manning on kickoff returns Sunday. Hester is widely considered the best return man in the league for good reason, but Manning is averaging 27.3 yards per kick return this year (three yards more than Hester). "Danieal Manning's probably the second best kickoff returner in the league," Kwan said. "He's outstanding, so no matter who's returning we got the same gameplan for him."

• Are changes in the offense coming? I wouldn't expect anything too dramatic, but Colletto said the Lions need to be more aggressive and suggested four-receiver formations will be "sprinkled in more often now throughout the game."

• After watching film during the bye week, Colletto said he's fine with the offensive gameplan the first two weeks but "got a little conservative" against the 49ers. Still, he said any changes he makes aren't in response to grumbling by Roy Williams and Jon Kitna, and don't reflect a change in philosophy. "We got to get on top a little bit quicker, try to do something sooner," he said. "We just want to be a little more aggressive. I think we're going to be."

• Slot receiver Shaun McDonald, who has 10 catches through three games coming off a career-high 79-catch season, said he'd welcome any changes that get the receivers more involved. "We haven't scored points like we should be," McDonald said. "I think a little bit more aggressiveness will help that out."

• A more aggressive offense should, theoretically, help a defense that ranks last in the league against the run and pass and has forced an NFL-worst one turnover. "You create turnovers by playing fast and playing hard and knocking the crap out of people and causing fumbles, hitting the quarterback and causing an errant pass that's up in the air and you pick it," Barry said. "That's how turnovers come." reckless, playing 100 miles an hour and the turnovers will come," Barry said.

• The Lions were granted a 24-hour extension by the NFL to sell the remaining 1,500 or so tickets for Sunday's game. If a sellout isn't reached by 1 p.m. today, the game will be blacked out locally for the first time since the Lions moved to Ford Field six years ago.

Dizon still not in rotation

No one expected Jordon Dizon to be the Lions' savior at linebacker, but a month into the season no one expected him to still be sitting the bench, either.

But that's where Dizon will be this Sunday when the Lions host the Bears in Game 1 of the post-Millen era — and probably longer. Lions coach Rod Marinelli was asked about the progress of his second-round draft pick after practice Wednesday.

"Right now I look at him just on special teams," Marinelli said. "I want to see where he's at."

Dizon played 14 defensive snaps in the Lions' season-opening loss to the Falcons. He made three tackles, didn't have an assignment error, and didn't play a down with the in-helmet defensive speaker system the Lions have reserved for their middle linebackers. (Dizon replaced Paris Lenon twice when Lenon suffered injuries and didn't bother to check his wired helmet out either time).

Since the Atlanta debacle, when Dizon showed a some of the playmaking reasons why the Lions drafted him 45th overall, he hasn't played a defensive down. He was in for only a handful of special-teams plays in a Week 2 loss to Green Bay, then sat out the San Francisco game with a stinger. He said Wednesday he could have played against the 49ers.

Marinelli said Dizon's status as a reserve is due mostly to the play of Lenon, the Lions' starting middle linebacker. Lenon, like most of his teammates, missed a handful of tackles in the opener but rebounded with two solid games. Nothing spectacular, but his 24 tackles are second most on the team.

I've advocated giving Dizon more playing time for a while now (alongside Lenon, not at the veteran's expense). There's a reason the Lions rushed to draft him in the second round and there's a reason they tried to sign Takeo Spikes, Jon Vilma and a few other veteran linebackers this offseason.

But it looks like Dizon and most of the rest of Detroit's young defensive talent will be out of the rotation until further notice. If the Lions are going to snap out of this tailspin, they're determined to do so with their vets. Cliff Avril may get some chances as a rush end. Landon Cohen was about to get his shot against the 49ers until Cory Redding's sprained ankle was deemed healthy enough to play. It's time for Ikaika Alama-Francis to start on the left side.

Eventually, if this season continues down its current path, all of those youngsters and more will get their shot. For now, it looks like status quo in Allen Park.

"We're still working to get (Dizon) in," Marinelli explained. "It's not like we're shutting this guy out, but Paris is the guy right now we're going to play."