DETROIT - The NFC North Division race - actually crawl might be a more appropriate word - is a lot like watching the Detroit Lions.
It can be excruciating.
Three weeks ago, the Lions scored just six points against the hapless Chicago Bears.
In three games, Detroit had tallied a grand total of 36 points, or 12 per game.
Yesterday, the Lions' offense exploded for five touchdowns, which was one more than they had all season, in a 35-17 rout of the defensive-minded Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field.
It was the most points put up by the Lions since the 2003 season opener - a 42-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Detroit linebacker Earl Holmes (50) forces a fumble by Baltimore's Ovie Mughelli as cornerback Dre Bly helps on the play during the first half at Ford Field.
For those keeping count, that was 36 games ago, when Joey Harrington was still considered a prized prospect.
Fortunately for Detroit, Harrington wasn't the worst quarterback on the field yesterday.
That honor went to Baltimore's Anthony Wright, who would have trouble getting into the end zone even if it were painted on his front door.
"It felt good to get into the end zone," said Harrington, who also struggled, completing just 10 of 23 passes for 97 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
"Our defense did well and gave us great field position the first three games, but we were coming up with a lot of field goals. Too many, in fact.
"Today we were finally able to get some touchdowns, which was awesome."
And because of it, the Lions woke up this morning atop the standings in their wild and wacky division.
Detroit's 2-2 record is tops in the NFC North - hold the big yawn, please - where the Bears and idle Minnesota Vikings are 1-3, followed by the 1-4 Green Bay Packers, who picked up their first win yesterday.
The hard-luck Lions have a decent chance to fatten their rec-
ord in the next five weeks, when they play five not-so-hot teams.
They will entertain the Carolina Panthers, Bears, and Cardinals at home, sandwiched around road dates with the Cleveland Browns and Vikings.
"It's way too early to be worrying about first place and all that," middle linebacker Earl Holmes said, "But it's not too early to start talking about making a run.
"Today's game was a big deal for us, and the next five games are a big deal for us. We can make a statement."
Before we get too carried away, let's not forget that the Lions benefited from 21 Baltimore penalties - one shy of the NFL record - four turnovers, and two ejections.
Even so, it was "nice to see a positive performance by the offense," Holmes said.
Tailback Kevin Jones scored on a season-high long run of 14 yards in the first quarter, then plowed in from the 1.
Backup Artose Pinner dived in for a score on the fifth crack from the 1 during a penalty- filled drive in the third quarter and third-stringer Sean Bryson scampered a career-long 77 yards for the final score in the fourth, shortly after tight end Casey FitzSimmons had snagged a two-yard scoring strike from Harrington.
Baltimore traditionally has one of the most physical defenses in the NFL.
Yesterday, the Lions played smash-mouth football and manhandled the Ravens at their own game.
Hold the laughter.
The Lions are in first place.
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