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Lions have new home, same losing result

8/24/2002

DETROIT (AP) -- New stadium. Old result.

For the first time since 1974, the Detroit Lions actually played
in the Motor City, opening Ford Field, the team's new $500 million
downtown stadium.

But the debut was spoiled when Tommy Maddox, playing in place of
Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart, threw two first-half
touchdown passes as the Steelers beat Detroit 34-22 Saturday.

The Lions -- who have one playoff win since winning the 1957 NFL
title -- fell to 0-3 in the preseason after starting 0-12 last year
and finishing 2-14.

"Well, that stadium is sure nice, but the football team needs
some work,'' Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg said.

Ford Field replaces the Pontiac Silverdome, which few fans will
miss because of its inflatable roof, sea of concrete and lack of
championships.

Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis, a Detroit native, left
his hometown with a smile.

"This place is impressive,'' Bettis said. "It's great that the
Lions are back in the city. I think it's going to generate a lot of
growth in the downtown area that frankly needs it.''

While the new place -- next door to Comerica Park, home of the
Detroit Tigers -- has created a buzz among fans, city leaders and
players, a stadium alone can't reverse the Lions' fortunes.

"I wish we could've won this one because we really, really
wanted to start it off here on the right foot,'' Lions running back
James Stewart said.

Maddox started in place of Kordell Stewart, who left last week's
game against Washington with a concussion. Maddox was 9-of-23 for
150 yards and two TDs with a fumble.

Charlie Batch, whom the Lions cut in June to get rid of the
three years and $10 million left on his contract, was loudly booed
when he came in late in the first half, and again in the second.
Batch was 7-of-15 for 117 yards with touchdowns passing and
rushing.

"I was here for the groundbreaking ceremony and I always
thought I would be here with the Lions when this place opened up,''
Batch said. "And the funny thing is, I was here for the opening,
just not in a Lions uniform.''

Rookie Antwaan Randle El, Pittsburgh's
quarterback-turned-receiver, caught three passes for 60 yards and a
TD, and former Michigan State star Plaxico Burress had two
receptions for 46 yards.

Detroit's quarterback competition didn't get much clearer
because incumbent Mike McMahon was only average, while rookie Joey
Harrington mixed in a few flashes of promise between mistakes.

McMahon was 11-of-22 for 132 yards with one TD and an
interception. Harrington was 13-of-25 for 218 yards with a
touchdown and an interception in the end zone on his first
possession.

"Mike, as coach said, is beyond where I am right now,''
Harrington said.

Detroit's two new receivers -- Az-Zahir Hakim and Bill Schroeder
-- played together for the first time and combined for six catches
and 101 yards.

After hundreds of cameras flashed to capture the first kickoff
and first play at Ford Field, the Lions drove 74 yards on eight
plays, capped by McMahon's 1-yard pass to James Stewart.

On Pittsburgh's second play, Detroit's Luther Elliss stripped
the football away from Maddox and Robert Porcher recovered. Jason
Hanson's 34-yard field goal put the Lions ahead 10-0.

"They came out with a flurry, and we didn't do a good job
handling that,'' Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "But we
settled down later.''

Bettis scored on a 1-yard run on the ensuing possession, after
Burress caught a 41-yard pass.

The Steelers went ahead 14-10 early in the second quarter when
Randle El caught a short curl, made a couple moves and ran for a
29-yard score.

"He's a special player,'' Cowher said.

On the first possession of the second half, Batch lobbed a
screen pass to Amos Zereoue, who zigzagged through the Lions'
first-string defense for a 39-yard TD to put the Steelers ahead
27-16 on the first possession of the second half.