Even when the Detroit Lions have reason to celebrate, something seems to get in the way.
Coming off their first road win in almost four years, the Lions will try to win consecutive games for only the second time in four seasons when they face the Houston Texans.
Detroit took advantage of what was likely its best opportunity this season to end an NFL-record, 24-game road losing streak, holding on for a 20-16 victory over Chicago last week.
Veteran safety Bracy Walker returned a blocked field goal 92 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and Joey Harrington tossed a 4-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Az-Zahir Hakim in the fourth quarter.
Walker came up with another big play with the Bears driving for the potential winning score, picking off Rex Grossman’s pass in the end zone with 18 seconds left to preserve Detroit’s first road victory since beating the New York Jets on Dec. 17, 2000.
“It’s important to end the streak for all the obvious reasons,” Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. “We are glad it’s over, believe me.”
The win, however, was costly for the Lions as they lost wide receiver Charles Rogers to a broken collarbone for the second straight year, ending his season. Rogers, the second overall pick in the 2003 draft, played only five games last season.
“I just spoke with Charles, and he’s very disappointed,” Mariucci said Monday. “I told him that’s he not to blame. He’s 23 and he’s got a lot of football ahead of him.”
Tai Streets will replace Rogers in the starting lineup.
“We’ve got to play with what we have,” Mariucci said. “That’s why we signed Tai and why we drafted Roy Williams. We’d love to have Charles out there, but it just isn’t in the cards for this year.”
Rogers’ injury wasn’t the only bad news for the Lions, who will be without Pro Bowl cornerback Dre’ Bly for the next two weeks after he sprained a knee ligament in the first quarter against the Bears.
Despite injuries to two key players, Mariucci believes Sunday’s win proves the Lions are a different team than the one that was 5-11 last season.
“We probably would have lost this game a year ago,” he said. “We got some guys hurt early on, and we could have gone in the tank. But the offense made a late drive and the defense made a late stop. That shows that this team is ready to take a step forward.”
With the third-year Texans coming to Ford Field on Sunday, Detroit has a golden opportunity for its first 2-0 start since 2000. The Lions won back-to-back games once in 2003 after failing to do so in the two previous seasons.
With its first two games against San Diego and Detroit—a combined 9-23 in 2003—Houston stood a good chance to get off to a fast start this season.
Instead, the Texans opened Sunday with a disappointing 27-20 loss at home to the Chargers and need a win over the Lions to avoid their first 0-2 start.
Ineffectiveness inside the red zone was the biggest problem for the Texans as they settled for field goals on their first two promising drives and two others ended with turnovers that led directly to 14 points for San Diego.
Domanick Davis rushed for 87 yards on 21 carries, but his fumble at the Chargers’ 14 with 3:57 left essentially sealed the loss.
“We got six points instead of the possible 14, that’s the difference in the game,” said quarterback David Carr, who threw for 229 yards. “We got it in the end zone a couple of times, but a couple of times isn’t enough.”
Carr threw two interceptions, but had a career-high 70.6 completion percentage on 19-of-25 passing.
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