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Published: Monday, 10/29/2001

Lions notebook: Howard earns return with his best, 229 yards

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
A Lions fan at the Silverdome looks at the bright side of being winless. A Lions fan at the Silverdome looks at the bright side of being winless.
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PONTIAC, Mich. - Desmond Howard knows a bit about Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg. After all, they won a Super Bowl together with the Green Bay Packers in 1996. Mornhinweg was Brett Favre's quarterback coach while Howard returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to be named Super Bowl MVP.

“He's not complicated,” Howard said yesterday. “In fact, it's real simple. You do your job, you keep your job. You don't do it, you'll be out of here.”

The two have been reunited on the Lions and find themselves about as far from that Super Bowl XXXI triumph as possible. The Lions are 0-6 after yesterday's 31-27 loss to Cincinnati.

Despite the record, Howard knows he'll have no trouble keeping his job if he keeps doing it the way he did against the Bengals.

Howard posted a career-best, 229 yards in kickoff returns, including back-to-back efforts of 91 and 65 yards to set up a pair of Lion touchdowns.

But it wasn't enough, just as it wasn't enough a week ago when Howard had kickoff returns of 46 and 59 yards in a 27-24 loss to Tennessee.

“I had a couple returns, we finished off some drives,” Howard said. “We scored 27 points and you'd think that would be enough to win. But if it isn't, you have to keep doing things to put your team in a position to win.

“Unfortunately, at that point of the game, late when things are on the line, we're not doing those things because of penalties or turnovers. Those are the most obvious problems. It's frustrating because we're a better team than the record shows.”

Howard produced his 229 yards on five kickoff returns yesterday - his previous career high was 223 yards for Oakland against Seattle in 1997 - and added an 18-yard punt return. The 229 yards was the second-highest single-game total in Lions history, trailing Wally Triplett's 294-yard effort against Los Angeles on the same date in 1950.

RECORD RUN: Corey Dillon's 96-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the game represented the longest rushing gain in Bengals history. It was nine yards longer than the previous best, an 87-yarder by Paul Robinson against Oakland on Oct. 27, 1968.

It was also a record for a Lion opponent (previous was 82, last accomplished in 1958) and a new Silverdome mark, erasing ex-Lion Barry Sanders' 84-yard effort against Chicago on Oct. 23, 1994.

DODGING BULLETS: Already behind 7-0 before his offense could run a play, Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch turned the ball over on the Lions' first two possessions. Cincinnati started both ensuing drives in Detroit territory, but could not add to its lead.

Bengal defensive end Justin Smith intercepted a poorly thrown screen pass and returned it 21 yards to the Detroit 43. But a second-down sack of Jon Kitna by Lion linebacker Allen Aldridge for a 16-yard loss forced a Bengal punt.

Moments later, Batch was stripped of the ball by a hard-rushing Brian Simmons and Reinard Wilson recovered for Cincinnati at the Detroit 22. Dillon gained five yards on first down, but the Bengals went backwards from there, a holding call being a key factor, and Neil Rackers missed a 47-yard field goal.

THREE-DOT DATA: Recently signed receiver Bert Emanuel was inactive for the Lions. Mornhinweg said he felt as if it would be rushing Emanuel to play him yesterday ... The Lions' first points came on a 51-yard field goal by Jason Hanson, the 20th of his career from 50-plus yards ... Hanson's second field goal, a 24-yarder that sliced an early Cincy lead to 14-6, was set up by a Ron Rice interception ... Free safety Kurt Schulz, playing for the first time this season, led Detroit's defense with seven solo tackles, an interception, and a pass deflection.


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