DETROIT - It was two years ago, almost to the day, when the Detroit Lions crushed Denver 44-7 before a fourth consecutive sellout crowd at Ford Field.
"Restore the Roar" was the slogan, the lines were out the door at the souvenir shop as dads bought Honolulu blue gear for their sons, and Rod Marinelli was the toast of the town.
The Lions were 6-3 after that game on Nov. 4, 2007. They have won two of 31 games since.
The most recent loss came yesterday to the previously winless St. Louis Rams before a crowd announced at 40,857, which is some 20,000 under capacity in the downtown dome.
And while everyone has been willing to cut first-year coach Jim Schwartz some slack after inheriting the worst situation in the NFL - the Lions last season became the first team in league history to go 0-16 - and saddling up a rookie quarterback, the goodwill is wearing a tad thin.
So, yesterday, when Schwartz was asked if he was embarrassed by the 17-10 loss, or frustrated by his offense managing a single scoring drive against a St. Louis defense that had allowed 138 points in its previous four starts, or chagrined that the Rams had so easily tricked his team on a touchdown-scoring fake field goal, or angry that his defense had been run over for 149 yards and a late, game-deciding touchdown by Steven Jackson, whose team had not scored on the ground in seven previous games, he white-knuckled the edges of the podium and turned into Marinelli.
"I'm determined," Schwartz said. "There's urgency to get this done and we're going to get it done. We can't switch courses, we can't make excuses. We need to go out and win."
How many times during the flameout at the end of the '07 season and the complete wipeout a year ago was Marinelli asked if he was embarrassed, frustrated, chagrined, or angry.
And how many times did he take the piling on and simply say that there was urgency to do it and to do it right, and that he was determined to see it through.
It became a broken record for the Lions' former coach and now we're hearing it from his successor.
In a sport where teams, both good and bad, have to play over injuries, the Lions were without their No. 1 playmaker, receiver Calvin Johnson. So rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, shuffled back into the deck after missing two games and perhaps a little rusty, rarely stretched the field and had six passes dropped by intended receivers, four of them during a particularly pathetic first half.
The Lions got decent run production on 32 carries by three different backs, but few if any big plays.
In other words, against a poor opponent that entered 0-7 and, looking ahead, had New Orleans and Arizona as its next two opponents, which made the Rams a desperately poor opponent, the Lions played what their coach admitted was small ball. He said it as if he didn't like it, which is good considering it didn't work.
"I wasn't hitting guys, the ball wasn't being placed where it needed to be placed, we had some trouble catching it, and we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties that killed drives, so it goes on everybody's shoulders," Stafford said. "We lose as a team."
So often, in fact, that it appears there is no progress being made. The Lions were badly out of their element in their last game, a 26-0 loss at Green Bay, and often looked just as feeble yesterday against a bad opponent at home while running their most recent losing streak to four games.
Are the Lions taking backward steps?
"I don't know about that," said end Dewayne White, who made the biggest play of the day for Detroit's defense, batting up and then pulling in an interception of Marc Bulger that squelched the Rams inside the Lions' 20 and sent the home team marching towards its only score of the day. "I'm not going to comment on that."
OK. But are the Lions dispirited?
"Big time," said linebacker Larry Foote.
"This is rough. It hurts your pride and everything. But we just have to keep fighting because nobody is coming to save us."
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