PONTIAC, Mich. - The Detroit Lions are looking for the finish line. For a defense that can finish opponents off short of the end zone. For an offense that can finish plays and drives. For a quarterback who can finish games.
Exactly who will quarterback the Lions Sunday at Minnesota remains a mystery following coach Marty Mornhinweg's weekly press conference yesterday afternoon.
“I'm almost positive I know what I'll be doing,'' he said. “But I'm going to talk to both of them first and I'm going to watch the films again.''
The films of Monday night's loss will show him two quarterbacks, starter Ty Detmer and relief pitcher Charlie Batch, who both moved the team well at times but who both imploded with huge mistakes.
Both drove the Lions into the red zone. Both threw interceptions in the red zone. Detmer took some untimely sacks with the team in scoring range. Batch lost a costly fumble.
And so it goes for a team that has scored one offensive touchdown during an 0-3 start and was shut out Monday for the first time since 1993.
“I do not want to play musical chairs at quarterback, yet we're in a position where that's quite possible because neither of these guys has taken the bull by the horns and run with it,'' Mornhinweg said. “I'm searching for a quarterback who can play at a high level on a consistent basis.''
Until a Lion QB gains some consistency, it will be impossible for the offensive unit to do the same.
“We haven't been able to finish when we get down in scoring territory,'' said running back James Stewart. “We haven't been able to finish and until we become consistent we won't be able to do what we want to do.''
Namely, that would be scoring points. Detroit has been beaten by a combined 87-20 margin in three games. Opponents own a 12-2 edge in touchdowns and one of those Lion TDs came on a 26-yard interception return by Terry Fair.
Opposing quarterbacks have thrown for eight touchdowns and have a 119.2 QB rating. The Lions' ratings are 55.8 for Batch and 44.5 for Detmer, who has thrown for eight interceptions against a lone touchdown.
“This isn't all about the quarterbacks,'' Mornhinweg insisted. “All the people around them have to elevate their play. The penalties and the sacks we've surrendered, especially in the red zone, are just as unacceptable as what we've seen from the quarterbacks. The bottom line is we haven't scored points. Period.''
One week after being penalized 15 times and turning the ball over seven times in a 24-14 loss at Cleveland, the Lions were flagged eight times for 68 yards and gave up the ball three times, all inside the St. Louis 30-yard line, in a game in which Detroit had to be nearly perfect just to compete.
“We're helping teams dominate us and helping them walk away with the football game,'' said receiver Herman Moore. “It's pathetic.''
One thing Mornhinweg did make clear yesterday is that either Batch or Detmer is going to have to get it done. Mike McMahon, a rookie from Rutgers University selected in the fifth round of the draft, is not an option for the immediate future.
“He's ahead of schedule,'' Mornhinweg said, before adding that he did not envision McMahon starting at any point this season.
“It has to be one of the other two guys and they have to prove they can play to a certain standard,'' the coach added. “They know what that standard is. Once you compromise standards, then it's over.''
When asked how he would respond to Lions fans who consider the team to have regressed from a year ago, when Detroit went 9-7, Mornhinweg said:
“I would remind them that this is three games in a long, long season. Quite frankly, I think we've played three good football teams. What's their cumulative record, 10-2? No excuses, though. We're just not scoring points. But we will.''
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