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Published: Sunday, 12/26/2010

Lions nab 3rd straight victory with rally past Dolphins

MIAMI — The Detroit Lions swapped back slaps and handshakes. Players checked their cell phones for congratulatory text messages. Laughter came from the hallway, and the stereo blared a rapper's command, “Party y'all all night.”

The visiting locker room at the Miami Dolphins' stadium has been in party mode most of the season.

The road team won again Sunday, when the Lions came up with two interceptions to score 17 points in the final 4:37 and rally past the stunned Dolphins 34-27.

Miami (7-8), eliminated from the playoff race last week, blew a late 10-point lead to finish 1-7 in its stadium. That's the worst home record in the league, and it matches a franchise low.

“We should all be embarrassed,” coach Tony Sparano said.

His players agreed.

“For us to be out there playing like that is a total embarrassment,” safety Yeremiah Bell said. “I want to apologize to the fans for our poor play this season.”

The Miami meltdown did nothing to help Sparano's wobbly job security. Owner Stephen Ross, who attended the game, hasn't commented on Sparano's status.

“At the end of the day, you're evaluated on wins and losses,” a downcast Sparano said.

The Lions (5-10) extended their winning streak to three games, impressive for a team that hadn't won even two in a row since 2007. The surge comes with a slight caveat: Detroit was out of the playoff race in November.

“We're obviously not going to the Super Bowl,” said tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who caught a touchdown pass. “We just want to get it done and lay a foundation for next year.”

The Lions were plagued with bad field position for much of the game, and Miami outrushed them 154-67. But Shaun Hill went 14 for 26 for 222 yards and a score on a windy afternoon, and the Lions showed the sort of resilience that has become characteristic lately.

“Very gratifying,” Hill said. “I was just standing there on the sideline watching the defense put it away.”

DeAndre Levy and Nathan Vasher intercepted Chad Henne, who threw for 278 yards and helped the Dolphins score three touchdowns at home for the first time this season before they self-destructed. The loss was their second in a row at home to a division cellar-dweller.

“The Detroit Lions?” Miami cornerback Vontae Davis said. “They shouldn't come in and win this game. We've got way more talent.”

The Dolphins led 24-14 with five minutes to go when the Lions forced a punt, and on the first play Jahvid Best turned a short pass from Hill into a 53-yard touchdown.

Three plays later, Henne overthrew a receiver and Vasher was there, setting up a 47-yard field goal by Dave Rayner to tie the game with 2:44 remaining.

Two Miami plays netted 2 yards before Henne threw another interception. Intended receiver Davone Bess fell as the ball arrived, and Levy grabbed it, then zigzagged 30 yards to the end zone for Detroit’s third score in less than 2 minutes.

“Definitely not Chad Henne’s fault,” Bess said. “I’ve got to stay on my feet.”

Miami drove 74 yards to the Detroit 28, but following a short completion the clock ran out.

The Lions lost six games by a touchdown or less before their recent winning streak, with the three victories by a total of 14 points.

“There’s some experience gained from playing in close games,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “I don’t think that’s a game we would have won earlier in the season.”

The Lions netted 11 yards on their first three possessions, then mounted an 80-yard drive that ended with Pettigrew’s 20-yard touchdown catch.

Detroit made the score 17-all with a 14-play, 86-yard march capped by Maurice Morris’ 5-yard run. Hill completed three third-down passes to keep the drive going.

Bess fumbled a punt return and Landon Johnson recovered to set up a Lions field goal. Still, when Ricky Williams’ 28-yard run from the wildcat set up a field goal for a 10-point Dolphins lead, it appeared they had a victory sewed up.

Notes: Lions WR Calvin Johnson sat out the fourth quarter after he aggravated an ankle injury. Schwartz said his status was day to day. ... Detroit CB Chris Houston injured his shoulder in the first half. ... Miami TE Anthony Fasano hurt his knee in the fourth quarter, and T Lydon Murtha suffered a head injury. DB Nolan Carroll left the game with a concussion in the first half ... Richie Incognito started at C for the first time in his two seasons with Miami. ... The Lions last beat the Dolphins in 1991, and they won for the first time in five games in Miami.



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