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Published: Saturday, 9/18/2010

Lions' hopes rest on Hill

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lions backup Shaun Hill will get the start against Philadelphia replacing the injured Matthew Stafford.  Lions backup Shaun Hill will get the start against Philadelphia replacing the injured Matthew Stafford.
JONATHAN DANIEL / GETTY IMAGES Enlarge

DETROIT — Hopes were relatively high for a change for the Detroit Lions just a week ago.

Matthew Stafford's golden right arm, an improved surrounding cast on offense and a strong defensive line were expected to make the Lions respectable after they won just twice in two seasons.

Then, Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers hit Stafford in the back, drove his right shoulder into the ground and suddenly Detroit's optimistic fans have plenty to be glum about.

Second-year coach Jim Schwartz and his players, publicly at least, insist replacing Stafford with Shaun Hill hasn't altered their outlook.

“Before you make judgments about what our offense can't do without Matt, allow us to prove to you what we can do with Shaun,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “If anything, I think we'll be more aggressive against Philly than we were at Chicago.”

The Eagles also are turning to a backup QB — Michael Vick in place of banged-up starter Kevin Kolb — Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit's home opener. Vick hasn't taken the first snap in a game since Dec. 31, 2006, when he was playing for Atlanta.

He didn't play the next two seasons because he served an 18-month sentence in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation. Vick slowly worked his way back into game shape last year, playing sparingly in 12 games, and last week looked a little like the electric Pro Bowler he was at times for the Falcons.

Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, though, said a concussion isn't going to change the pecking order of Kolb and Vick.

“Kevin knows he's the guy,” Reid said. “I don't want to slight Michael at all in this because I am so happy for this kid and the progress that he's made since being incarcerated, in both life and on the football field. He's worked so stinking hard to get himself to this position.

“On the other hand, Kevin's the starting quarterback for this football team.”

Vick connected on two-thirds of his passes for 175 yards and a touchdown and ran 11 times for 103 yards, helping the Eagles rally from a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to have a shot at beating Green Bay. It was the seventh game in which he had more than 100 yards rushing and passing, a feat no one else has done more than three times

“I don't really go out to try to prove to anybody that I can still play this game,” Vick said.

Lions linebacker Julian Peterson, who chased Vick when he was playing for the Falcons, said he doesn't look as fast as he did in the past.

Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, seemed unfazed to face Vick after matching up successfully with similar QBs in college.

“I've played against quarterbacks that are like him, actually at his own school, Virginia Tech with Tyrod Taylor,” Suh said. “So, I know how to play against guys like that. You just have to be get on him quicker and close fast because if you allow them to use their legs as a weapon they will cause havoc all game.”

Hill will rely on his arm much more than his feet to make plays.

He was 3-3 as a starter for San Francisco last year and was 10-6 as the No. 1 QB for the 49ers over the previous three seasons.

“It's not his first rodeo,” center Dominic Raiola said. “He started games ahead of another No. 1 pick, Alex Smith, in San Francisco and people would've been talking about the game-winning drive he led us on if won at Chicago.”



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