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Lions' backslide frustrates Ross

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Lions coach Bobby Ross, who has one year remaining on a five-year contract, watched his team lose its second consecutive game.

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PONTIAC, Mich. - Detroit Lions coach Bobby Ross challenged his team last week in practice.

“I talked to them about having the will to win. I talked to them about an attitude. I talked to them about leadership,” Ross said. “Those are the three things that are key ingredients going into the stretch of a season when you're in a contending position, and these things have to start happening.”

After the Lions were manhandled 23-8 by the Miami Dolphins yesterday, it's obvious Ross's speech fell on deaf ears.

Detroit's second consecutive loss not only dropped the team to 5-4, it had Ross rethinking his future as Lions coach.

He has one year remaining on a five-year contract.

“It really hurts,” he said.

Most Lions players, though, said they would be surprised if Ross stepped down.

“We believe in coach Ross,” tight end David Sloan said. “We believe in the coaching staff. We're still a good team. We just need to turn things around. And I think he'll be here to see us through that.”

“I understand his frustration completely,” center Mike Compton said. “Everybody in here is frustrated. We're struggling in all phases of our game. I don't think he's failed; we've failed as players.”

“After another tough loss, he probably sees the season slipping away,” receiver Johnnie Morton said. “When you put it as much time as coach Ross does and it starts falling apart, you have to question yourself. I know I do it all the time.”

Both Ross and Morton were around when last season unraveled. The Lions got off to a 6-2 start but finished 2-6 and lost to Washington in the first round of the NFC playoffs.

“We're at a crossroads right now, “ Morton said. “We've got to get back to where we were before. If we don't, it's going to get pretty bad around here.”

BATCH BOUNCED: Charlie Batch was knocked out of the game with a mild concussion in the third quarter when he was sacked by Dolphins defensive ends Jason Taylor and Kenny Mixon.

It was one of four sacks for the Dolphins, who entered the game with an AFC-high 27.

Ross turned to backup Stoney Case, who engineered one scoring drive, but also threw an interception.

Ross said Batch “will be OK” but he said he would wait until early this week to name his starter for Sunday's home game against Atlanta.

“I have no idea what the extent of Charlie's injury is,” Case said. “He seemed OK. He just looked dizzy.”

LATE ARRIVAL: Lions defensive end Robert Porcher arrived at the Silverdome around noon yesterday.

For a while, it looked like he might not make it at all.

Porcher's wife, Kim, had emergency surgery to remove kidney stones yesterday morning. Doctors were worried she might have complications because she is eight months pregnant with their third child.

Porcher started at left end but had no tackles and no sacks.

FIRST START: Rookie Stockar McDougle, the team's first-round draft pick, made his first NFL start at left tackle.

He replaced Ray Roberts, who has had his sore right leg placed in an immobilizer boot.

McDougle, 6-6, 350, did not dress for the first eight games after injuring his knee in the third exhibition game. Yesterday, he surrendered two sacks to Miami defensive end Jason Taylor.

“I played so-so,” he said. “It wasn't great, it wasn't horrible.”

ODDS & ENDS: Desmond Howard, the best return man in the NFL, missed the game with a strained neck. He was replaced on punts and kickoffs by Terry Fair. ... Lions backup fullback Brock Olivo pulled his right hamstring in the second quarter and did not return. ... Detroit's defense surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive for the first time in 35 games, ending the longest active streak in the NFL.

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