Lions blow out Broncos
AP Sports Writer
DETROIT ” The Detroit Lions had confidence in themselves back in training camp, when Jon Kitna boldly declared he would be disappointed with anything short of 10 wins.
They’re not alone now because people outside their locker room are believing in them, too.
Jon Kitna threw two touchdown passes and the Detroit Lions scored twice on defense, leading to a 44-7 rout over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
The Lions (6-2) have established themselves as a legitimate contender in the NFC and perhaps the surprise team in the entire league at the midway point of their season. They are one game behind Green Bay (7-1) in the NFC North.
“This is real,” defensive tackle Cory Redding said. “This is a different team. It’s not the same-old Lions anymore.”
In the Super Bowl era, 76 percent of the 146 teams that started 6-2 made the playoffs. The Lions haven’t won six of their first eight games since 1999, the last season they made the playoffs.
“I hope we keep playing one snap at a time,” coach Rod Marinelli said. “The rest of that is too far down the road. I know that’s boring. I’m boring.”
At this point, Detroit already has twice as many wins as last year, Marinelli’s first season, and matched the most victories in any year under team president Matt Millen. It was also the third straight win for Detroit, which also more than doubled its largest margin of victory since Millen took over in 2001.
Denver (3-5) was handed its most-lopsided loss in nearly two decades, dropping it below .500 halfway through the season for the first time since its last losing season in 1999.
“If you play at the level we did, you get embarrassed,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “I’ve been embarrassed a couple of times this year. Now, we find out what we’re made of.”
The banged-up Broncos took more hits when quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Travis Henry were sidelined with injuries. Cutler left the game with a lower leg injury in the second quarter and was replaced by Patrick Ramsey.
“I’ll get an MRI,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s just a bruise.”
Henry did not play in the fourth quarter after hurting his left knee, but said he felt fine.
Denver scored with 2 1/2 minutes left to avoid being shut out for the first time since 1992.
The Broncos were about to add another meaningless score in the final seconds, but receiver Brian Clark fumbled into the end zone.
“We’re not a good football team right now,” said cornerback Dre’ Bly, who played in Detroit the previous four seasons. “We’ve got to look in the mirror and see if we’re doing our jobs.”
The Lions started slowly, scoring only once in the first quarter on Jason Hanson’s first of three field goals. They led 16-0 at halftime.
“Then, every phase just took over,” Hanson said.
It became a blowout in the third when defensive end Dewayne White picked up Ramsey’s fumble and returned it for a TD and Shaun McDonald was untouched on a 49-yard reception.
Adding to the laugher, Shaun Rogers intercepted a screen pass and the 340-pound defensive tackle rumbled 66 yards, scoring after stiff-arming Selvin Young to make it 37-0 in the fourth quarter. Rogers also had 2 1/2 sacks, broke up a pass and was credited with four QB hits.
“He’s making big-time plays for a down guy,” Marinelli said.
Detroit is the only team in the NFC undefeated at home, starting 4-0 for the first time since moving back downtown in 2002.
“The 12th man was awesome,” linebacker Boss Bailey said.
Kitna was 16-of-31 for 252 yards, two scores and no turnovers. Kevin Jones ran for 71 yards and four receivers caught at least three passes.
Ramsey completed 29 of 46 passes for 262 yards with a TD pass to Brandon Stokley, an interception and a fumble. Brandon Marshall caught nine passes for 96 yards, but dropped three passes on one drive alone.
Notes: Detroit, which had won two games by 18 points under Millen, enjoyed its biggest win since beating Jacksonville 44-0 in 1995. … Denver was handed its worst loss since losing 42-0 to New Orleans in 1988. … White (left arm) was injured on his score. … Broncos FS John Lynch was inactive with a pinched nerve in his neck. … Denver CB Champ Bailey played against his brother, Boss, for the first time. … Hanson became the 11th player in NFL history to score 1,600 points, moving past ex-Lion Eddie Murray on the career scoring list.