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Lions give too charitably to Patriots

11/28/2002

DETROIT (AP) -- Getting a punt blocked, throwing an interception
in the red zone and racking up nine penalties usually is a recipe
for defeat. Unless the opponent is the Detroit Lions.

Antowain Smith ran for 80 yards and a touchdown, and Tedy
Bruschi returned an interception 27 yards for a score as the New
England Patriots beat Detroit 20-12 Thursday.

"Today wasn't one of the most attractive wins of the year,''
said New England's Troy Brown, who caught 10 passes for 111 yards.
"It will be tough to win playing ugly now, because we've got three
division teams coming up, and we're all fighting for a spot.''

The Patriots (7-5) have won four of five games -- after losing
four straight -- to pull within half a game of AFC East-leading
Miami. The Super Bowl champions play Buffalo, the New York Jets and
the Dolphins at home in December.

The Lions (3-9) have dropped four straight games and lost
consecutive games on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since
1992-93.

After Jason Hanson's fourth field goal cut Detroit's deficit to
20-12 with 9:46 left, the Patriots ran out the clock by driving
from their 19 to the Detroit 1. Tom Brady then kneeled to end the
game.

During the 17-play drive, New England was penalized twice on
third-and-7 but converted both times.

In the second quarter, Brady had a chance to add to New
England's 10-3 lead after Deion Branch's 63-yard kickoff return,
but he threw an interception to Chris Cash at the Detroit 16. The
Lions then gained 14 yards before punting.

On the Patriots' next drive, Chris Claiborne blocked a punt, but
three plays later, Willie McGinest leaped for an interception at
the Patriots 16.

"It was pretty even, but we were able to make the right plays
at the right time,'' New England coach Bill Belichick said. "We
converted turnovers, we picked up some big third-down conversions
and we played good defense in the red zone. You always have to feel
good when you don't give up a touchdown in this league.''

New England scored two TDs off Joey Harrington's three
first-half interceptions.

"When they got a pick, they scored,'' Cash said. "When we got
our pick, we didn't come up with anything.''

Brady was 18-of-30 for 210 yards with an interception and no
touchdowns. Harrington, a rookie, finished 22-of-44 for 210 yards
with no TD passes.

A national-television audience witnessed what those following
the Lions have seen for weeks _ Harrington is struggling. He has
thrown nine interceptions and five TDS in his past five games.

Chants of "Jo-ey! Jo-ey!'' at Ford Field have given way to boos
for Harrington. There were even sarcastic cheers late in the first
half when he threw a ball away instead of forcing a pass or taking
a sack.

"It's not fun,'' Harrington said. "But they don't know what's
going on like we do.''

New England needed fewer than six minutes to grab a 10-0 lead at
the start of the game and never let the Lions get closer than 7.

Bruschi's interception return for a TD -- his second score of the
season -- made it 10-0. The seventh-year linebacker fooled
Harrington by faking a blitz and dropping back into coverage to
step in front of a short pass over the middle.

Hanson's 23-yard field goal late in the first quarter capped a
13-play drive that was kept alive by a New England penalty on third
down.

Bobby Hamilton's interception at the Lions 19 led to Smith's
1-yard run, which put New England ahead 17-3 with 2:24 left in the
half.

Hanson's 45-yard kick late in the half moved him past Eddie
Murray as the Lions' career scoring leader with 1,115 points.

Three straight drives bridging the last two quarters ended with
field goals, two by Hanson and one by Adam Vinatieri. Detroit lost
for just the second time in 14 games when Hanson makes four field
goals.

Game notes
Bruschi, who left the game late in the first quarter, will
have an MRI on his right knee this weekend. ... Detroit's Tony
Semple left the game in the second quarter with a dislocated
shoulder, James Stewart and Cory Schlesinger both left the game
with "significant stingers,'' and Barrett Green was sidelined with
a sprained left ankle. ... Harrington was Detroit's seventh
starting QB in the past 11 Thanksgiving games.