DETROIT - It'll be interesting to see what Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci does next.
Does Mariucci stay the course and stick with his stubborn refusal to scrap his ineffective dink-and-dunk passing game?
Will he finally take the wraps off first-year offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, or was Tollner merely window dressing and a convenient scapegoat for the true origin of Detroit's offensive struggles - Mariucci himself?
Why hire a new offensive coordinator if Mariucci insists on running the same old offense?
"Our passing game for a variety of reasons is letting us down,'' Mariucci said yesterday after Detroit's 21-20 last-seconds' loss to the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field. "We have to get those things fixed. We're going to have to decide what we emphasize this week in terms of corrections and improvements.''
Mariucci acknowledged that getting quarterback Joey Harrington untracked is of paramount importance.
Carolina defensive end Al Wallace gets just enough of a handful of Detroit QB Joey Harrington's No. 3 jersey to sack him in the fourth quarter. Harrington had a pressure-filled afternoon, suffering six sacks for a total of 44 yards in losses and one interception.
In yet another less-than-scintillating performance, Harrington was 17-of-28 for 157 net yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
The only thing more annoying than Harrington's inability to connect with his receivers with any real measure of consistency, is Mariucci's refusal to throw the ball downfield.
Harrington needs to have success this season. He's not a kid anymore. He's a four-year NFL veteran, and Mariucci is at the end of his rope with him.
Harrington was sold to Lions fans as a savior and a leader. He's been neither. Lions fans were sold a bill of goods.
In response, fans at Ford Field booed him unmercifully yesterday. At the end of the game, Harrington was serenaded with vulgar chants, although he wasn't the only Lions player who deserved them.
"The fans have a right to boo when we're not doing a good job,'' running back Kevin Jones said.
Detroit's offensive line was a sieve. Brutalized by Carolina's relentless pass rush, Harrington was sacked six times. On some plays the rush came so fast, he was sacked while he was still dropping back.
"I don't worry about who is putting what on anybody. We have a job to do and if you want to put it on me, so be it,'' Harrington said. "I can take it; it's nothing new.''
Detroit's offense never established a ground attack (52 yards on 24 carries), scored just two field goals and produced just 11 first downs (two by penalty).
Mariucci can't afford for his offense to be the culprit in
"That [209 total yards, no offensive touchdowns] is really not acceptable,'' Mariucci said.
Detroit's defense tried to help yesterday. Did it ever.
Two touchdowns on interception returns. A total of three picks. One fumble recovery. Two sacks. A fourth-quarter knockout of Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme by safety Kenoy Kennedy.
And it still wasn't enough to produce a Lions win at home.
"If the defense scores 14 points and all we can manage is six points, that's pitiful, that's disgusting,'' guard Damien Woody said. "That falls on everybody's shoulders.''
The brunt of the responsibility falls on Mariucci's shoulders. It's his offense. But it can still be the Lions' salvation if he opens up his mind, along with the playbook.
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