Lions receiver Larry Foster fumbles near the end zone during the second quarter yesterday. Miami recovered for a touchback.
PONTIAC, Mich. - The Detroit Lions' season suddenly is spiraling downward, and perhaps out of control.
Sound familiar? It should.
The second half of last season unfolded much the same way.
After yesterday's 23-8 loss to the Miami Dolphins before 77,813 at the Silverdome, Lions coach Bobby Ross was so disgusted, he delivered what sounded an awful lot like a resignation speech.
“It was one of the more embarrassing losses that I've had,” said Ross, who is in the next-to-last season of a five-year, $7.5 million contract. “Right from the very beginning it was obvious that we weren't ready to play and I have to take responsibility.
“It was very embarrassing, very embarrassing.”
Ross's team, which slipped into a second-place tie with Tampa Bay in the NFC Central at 5-4, has been outscored 40-0 in the first half of the past two games.
The Lions have trailed 23-0 in both, and faced a 14-0 deficit against the Dolphins yesterday before they even touched the ball on offense.
Ross's Lions also have been outscored 115-60 in their four losses this season, three of which have come at the Silverdome.
Worse yet, things have gotten so bad, Lions cornerback Terry Fair had to break up a shoving match between receiver Herman Moore and quarterback Stoney Case after Case threw an interception late in the game yesterday.
“You want your ballclub to be a model of what you think you are - I obviously failed,” Ross said. “(This loss) will be very hard for me to digest. There will be some reflections I have to go through between myself and my wife (Alice).
“If there's one thing that I hope I can leave with this city of Detroit, it would be that I do fight and I do compete. And what bothers me is that we didn't fight back today.”
Ross, who has compiled a 27-30 record in three-plus seasons as Lions coach, also is worried that his message might not be getting through to the players.
Asked twice if he might consider resigning after talking to his wife, Ross refused to answer.
“I'm not going to comment any further,” he said.
Strong safety Ron Rice said he expects Ross to continue coaching the Lions.
“I can tell he's pretty hurt,” Rice said. “Usually he's just upset. But he looks emotionally exhausted. Nothing would surprise me, especially after the way Barry (Sanders) went out (retiring on the eve of training camp last year).
Miami's Jason Taylor, who had two sacks, checks out Lions QB Charlie Batch after a sack in the third quarter. Batch left with a mild concussion and was replaced by Stoney Case.
“But coach Ross is a fighter. I would be surprised if he doesn't stay until the end of the year.”
The AFC East-leading Dolphins (7-2) delivered a quick knockout punch to the Lions yesterday.
Autrey Denson returned the opening kickoff 46 yards and then running back Lamar Smith bolted 46 yards for the score on Miami's first play from scrimmage.
The third play of the game was an onside kick, which Miami turned into another score - an eight-yard run by Smith, who finished with 125 yards on 24 carries.
Just like that, the Dolphins had a 14-0 lead.
“It was a great start to the game for us,” Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler said. “It took the crowd out of the game right away.”
Olindo Mare kicked the first of his three field goals early in the second quarter, giving the Dolphins a 17-0 lead which stood up until halftime.
The Lions' only real first-half scoring opportunity was squelched when receiver Larry Foster fumbled at Miami's 3-yard line on a reverse play. The ball was recovered by Miami's Patrick Surtain in the end zone for a touchback.
“Offensively, we're having a very hard time right now,” Moore said. “It seems like every week it gets worse.”
Two special-teams breakdowns - Fair fumbled the second half kickoff and John Jett had a punt blocked -- helped set up field goals of 38 and 41 yards for Mare in the third quarter.
One play before the blocked punt, Dolphins defensive ends Jason Taylor and Kenny Mixon knocked Lions quarterback Charlie Batch out of the game. Batch, who suffered a mild concussion, had completed just 8 of 16 passes for 95 yards and was sacked three times.
Dophins fullback Ron Konrad pulls in a pass during the first quarter in front of Lions cornerback Bryant Westbrook.
Case, who started the first game of the season when Batch was injured, engineered an 11-play, 75-yard drive on his first series that climaxed with a three-yard run by James Stewart and a 2-point conversion pass to Moore early in the fourth quarter.
Case later overthrew a wide open Johnnie Morton streaking down the middle of the field and tossed an interception deep in Miami territory late in the game. He finished 7-of-11 for 74 yards and was sacked once.
As Case came off the field, Moore pushed him.
“I apologized to Stoney,” Moore said. “We had a little disagreement over plays, but it's something I never should have done. It was uncalled for.”
“There was some frustration, but it was one of those things Herman and I will work out,” Case said. “There was a miscommunication. Every team has it. We'll be all right.”