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Published: Monday, 9/22/2003

Tough road around corner

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mariucci: Things are only going to get tougher for the Lions. Mariucci: Things are only going to get tougher for the Lions.
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DETROIT - The Lions are 1-2 and things are only going to get tougher, coach Steve Mariucci said yesterday after a 23-13 loss to Minnesota at Ford Field.

Detroit, which has been outscored 54-19 in losses to Green Bay and the Vikings since opening with a 42-24 romp past Arizona, will not play its next home game until Oct. 19.

The Lions face back-to-back road games against Denver and San Francisco, and then have their bye week.

“Arizona was a little like us, trying to learn and trying to improve, “ Mariucci said. “Now, we're in the midst of a stretch of [going against] potential playoff teams and we're finding how we stack up and how much we have to improve. It isn't always going to be fun. “

BANGED UP: The Lions had four players leave the game with injuries and may find themselves without their top kick return man, Eddie Drummond, and cornerback Andre Goodman for undetermined lengths of time.

Drummond suffered a high ankle sprain and Goodman had a shoulder dislocated.

Mariucci would not speculate how long they might be out.

Receiver Shawn Jefferson (ribs) and offensive guard Ray Brown (strained pectoral muscle) also did not return after they were hurt.

Quarterback Joey Harrington missed a couple snaps after dislocating the index finger on his right hand.

“I hit a helmet following through on a pass, “ he said. “Maybe I should do it more often because I felt like I threw the ball better in the second half after it happened. I assume it will be sore and swollen tomorrow, but I don't anticipate missing any time. “

HIGH ROAD: Linebacker Chris Claiborne didn't hide his bitterness when the Lions let him leave as a free agent last spring after leading the team in tackles in each of the previous two seasons.

He signed with Minnesota, then bit his tongue after yesterday's win by the Vikings.

“This isn't about me, “ he said. “It's about the team being 3-0 and 2-0 on the road. “

Claiborne had seven tackles yesterday and has a team-high 25 this season.

FLAG FODDER: Early in the second quarter, the Lions punted on fourth-and-five from their own 25, but were penalized for holding.

On the re-kick from the 15, they were again called for holding. On the re-kick from the 8, they were flagged for a false start.

Finally, they got a punt off from the 4-yard line, setting the stage for a short drive that produced Minnesota's first touchdown.

“Three penalties in a row on a punt, for goodness sake,“ Mariucci said. “We had nine penalties today; way too many.“

THREE-DOT-DATA: Lions WR Charles Rogers had a career-high six catches ... WR Az-zahir Hakim had three receptions in his first action since dislocating a hip Nov. 17, 2002. After Drummond was hurt, Hakim took over kick-return duty ... Daunte Culpepper broke Fran Tarkenton's Viking team record (22) for rushing touchdowns by a QB. His two yesterday gave him 24 during his career ... Lions CB Dre Bly had an interception for the third straight game ... In addition to surrendering a pair of 72-yard pass plays, the Lions defense was also touched for a 61-yard run by Moe Williams on a play that started at the Viking 3-yard line.



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