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His statement doesn’t seem to bother the Lions, who aren’t about to make any bold declarations after doing so last year resulted in them being embarrassed at Soldier Field.
Although Chicago (3-4) has struggled to defend its conference championship and Detroit isn’t in its usual spot at the bottom of the division, Harris was quoted this week as saying that the Lions wouldn’t improve to 5-2 on Sunday.
“Detroit don’t come into Chicago and win in our stadium,” he told a local newspaper.
The Lions are trying to use that as motivation for their first victory in Chicago since Sept. 12, 2004. Earlier this week, Detroit center Dominic Raiola taped up the article with Harris’ quote in the lockers of several teammates.
“I put these all over the place,” he said, gesturing to the copy in his own cubicle. “I just wanted to get everyone thinking about Chicago.”
The Lions also hope Harris’ proclamation will backfire like Roy Williams’ did last year. The Detroit receiver said his team would win a Sept. 17 game at Soldier Field, but Chicago pounded the Lions 34-7.
Detroit is looking to sweep the season series from the Bears for the first time since 2004 after scoring a league-record 34 points in the fourth quarter of a 37-27 win Sept. 30 at Ford Field. Jon Kitna threw two touchdown passes, Kevin Smith returned an interception for a score and Kevin Jones capped a 5-minute drive with a TD run in the final period as Detroit snapped a four-game losing streak against the Bears.
That contest was the first for Brian Griese as Chicago’s starting quarterback in place of the ineffective Rex Grossman. Griese threw 52 passes, tied for third most in team history, with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Griese’s hold on the starting job seemed tenuous after his uneven performance, but he has likely solidified his spot for the remainder of the season after leading the Bears on a winning touchdown drive Sunday in a 19-16 victory over Philadelphia.
With 1:51 remaining, Griese completed seven of nine passes for 97 yards, throwing a 15-yard TD to Muhsin Muhammad with 9 seconds left.
The victory was a critical one for the Bears, who stayed 2 1/2 games back in the NFC North race. Chicago will likely need Griese to continue his hot play this week, as the team struggled again to run the ball effectively. Cedric Benson had 46 yards on 17 carries last week to lead the Bears, who are 30th in the NFL in rushing at 81.1 yards a game.
“The key to us going forward is how do we build on what we did … and become a better football team going forward,” Griese told the team’s official Web site.
The Bears have won five of their last six home games against the Lions.
Surprising Detroit is battling 5-1 Green Bay for the division lead. The Lions defeated Tampa Bay 23-16 on Sunday, as Calvin Johnson scored the winning touchdown on a 32-yard run midway through the fourth quarter after Detroit recovered a fumble by former Lions quarterback Jeff Garcia.
“We have the pieces to win,” said Kitna, who was 16-of-20 for 147 yards to help Detroit surpass last season’s win total. “We just had to put it altogether.”
Although Kitna does not have a touchdown the last two contests, he’s thrown for 1,480 yards on the season and has Detroit ranked seventh in the NFL in passing yards per game (243.0).
It was the ground attack, however, that was the biggest key in the win over the Buccaneers.
Detroit rushed for a season-high 147 yards and two touchdowns, with Jones contributing 76 yards on 15 carries in his first start since breaking his foot late last season. The Lions rank 27th in the NFL in rushing with 85.5 yards per game.
“Going into the game, we felt like we could run the ball on that team, but we still had to go out and execute,” coach Rod Marinelli said. “A lot of it is Kevin being healthy, and that helps right off the bat.”
The Lions are 1-2 on the road this season and 7-44 in their last 51 games away from Detroit. They don’t play back-to-back road games in 2007, but know they’ll have to find a way to win in hostile stadiums if they want to capture the division title.
“We’re still learning how to win on the road,” said Kitna, “and we’ve had a couple games where that hasn’t gone well.”