Lions 20, Broncos 13
DETROIT (AP)—Rod Marinelli remembers scurrying along the sideline before the national anthem, making sure the Lions were standing and holding their helmets properly.
Before Marinelli knew it, his debut as a head coach at any level was over.
“I love to win,” said Marinelli, a former defensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “If we’re playing marbles, I’m going to get you.”
“You couldn’t have a better way to finish,” Marinelli said. “I like pressure.”
Kircus, a former Lions receiver competing for a spot on Denver’s roster, had six catches for 76 yards and a score. But he only lamented his final opportunity.
“Any time you get a chance for the ball, have it touch your hand in the end zone on the last play of the game, it’s heartbreaking when you don’t bring it in,” he said.
Even though his team lost, Broncos safety John Lynch was happy to see one of his former coaches get a chance to lead a team.
“This opportunity has been long overdue,” Lynch said. “He was a defensive line coach with the Bucs, but he was more than that to guys on both sides of the ball. He’s a special coach, and a great guy.”
The Lions led 10-0 early in the second quarter and, after losing the lead, went back ahead 17-13 midway through the third. Artose Pinner’s 2-yard run was the go-ahead score, set up by Mike Williams’ 24-yard catch from McCown. After Denver’s third turnover, Matt Prater’s field goal early in the fourth quarter gave Detroit a 20-13 lead.
Jay Cutler had a solid debut for the Broncos. The 11th pick in the draft was 16-of-22 for 192 yards and a touchdown.
“He played well, executed the offense,” Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. “Both teams were very vanilla in their approach, so you don’t get too excited. But a guy’s got to go out there and perform and I thought he showed a lot of poise.”
Both starting quarterbacks, Kitna and Denver’s Jake Plummer, played only one series and each moved the ball about 60 yards.
Plummer got the Broncos past midfield with a 16-yard pass to Darius Watts, then Mike Bell fumbled two plays later—less than a week after the undrafted rookie moved past Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne to become the No. 1 running back.
“We didn’t like the fumble, but that’s typical of young guys in the NFL,” Shanahan said. “It’s similar to what Clinton Portis went through as a rookie. That’s why you play those guys in these situations.”
Marinelli said earlier in the week McCown would be the second quarterback to play, but Orlovsky took snaps after the coaching staff decided to change plans. The second-year pro made a 24-yard pass to Corey Bradford on his first play and ended his first possession with a good read and accurate toss to running back Arlen Harris for a 20-yard TD and a 10-0 lead.
Cutler took advantage of a turnover by threading a pass through a zone to Tony Scheffler for a 15-yard gain, setting up Jason Elam’s 36-yard kick. With 44 seconds left in the half, Cutler threw three passes for 27 yards and Tatum Bell had a 15-yard run before Elam made another field goal to make it 10-6 at halftime.
Tatum Bell finished with 26 yards on five carries and Mike Bell had 20 yards on seven rushes.
Denver went ahead 13-10 early in the third quarter. Cutler looked right and threw left to a wide-open Kircus.
The Lions had 16 players inactive, including five starters on defense and two first-string linemen on offense.
Denver had seven inactives, including receivers Javon Walker (knee) and Rod Smith (hamstring), cornerback Champ Bailey, coming off a season slowed by shoulder and hamstring injuries, and defensive end Courtney Brown, whose latest knee surgery was Wednesday.
After an impressive training camp and one reception for 9 yards, Broncos rookie WR Brandon Marshall left the game in the first half with a strained right knee. Shanahan said he didn’t think the injury was serious. … Detroit TE Casey FitzSimmons, who had moved past Marcus Pollard on the depth chart, might be out for two weeks with an injured left wrist.