New England has no reason to be thankful

Lions act very un-Patriotic on Thanksgiving

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2000

PONTIAC, Mich. -- Charlie Batch put on the performance of a gladiator.

Playing with ribs bruised by the New England defense, Batch threw for one touchdown and ran for another as Detroit rolled to a 34-9 victory Thursday over the struggling Patriots.

''Have you ever seen 'Gladiator?''' asked cornerback Marquis Walker, whose interception of a Drew Bledsoe pass led to a 10-yard TD run by Batch. ''Charlie took some shots like Maximus. He showed me he was Maximus today.''

Batch also threw a TD pass to David Sloan and Bryant Westbrook returned an interception 101 yards for a score as Detroit scored 28 points in the second half to run away from the Patriots (3-9). That made them 3-0 under Gary Moeller, who took over as head coach when Bobby Ross stepped down.

''I think we're on a roll,'' Moeller declared.

It came at a welcome time for Detroit (8-4), which inched closer to the playoffs with a daunting stretch ahead -- three straight road games against Minnesota, Green Bay and the New York Jets.

The Lions have potential tiebreaker wins over New Orleans, Washington and the New York Giants, all of whom also have four losses. But Detroit considered a victory over the struggling Patriots (3-9) important and looked to Batch to deliver.

He did, much to the Patriots' dismay.

''They opened up and whipped us,'' New England free safety Larry Whigham said.

''We played competitively, but in the third quarter some things got away from us,'' said New England coach Bill Belichick.

With Detroit trailing 9-6, he put the Lions ahead to stay with a 1-yard TD pass to tight end David Sloan on a fourth-and-goal with 3:45 left in that period.

On Detroit's next possession, Batch took a crushing shot to the chest from Patriots strong safety Lawyer Milloy, who was penalized 15 yards for roughing.

Batch was helped off the field and sat out two plays before returning, then threw 18 yards to Sedrick Irvin to the 1. After Batch failed to sneak it in, James Stewart dove in for a TD and 20-9 Detroit lead with 11:18 left.

Walker then intercepted a Bledsoe pass and returned it 12 yards to the New England 15. Batch later scored on a 10-yard scramble, pushing the margin to 27-9 and finishing 16 of 24 for 194 yards before he was replaced by Stoney Case.

''Charlie showed good toughness out there,'' Moeller said. ''He could at least smile through the pain, and he wanted to be out there. That's what you want to see in a leader. He really got punched, and he kept going back in the game.''

Westbrook closed out the scoring with 4:13 left, picking off a Bledsoe pass in the end zone and taking it all the way.

Detroit's scoring barrage left Patriots defender Willie McGinest disgusted enough to hold a players-only meeting afterward.

''I told them that I take these games personally,'' he said. ''Our team has to be accountable for our mistakes. As a team, this can't go on.''

Bledsoe finished 17 of 32 for 148 yards but threw the two costly interceptions before being replaced late in the fourth by Tom Brady.

''You play to win, and when you lose the game and throw two interceptions it just cuts through the heart,'' Bledsoe said after playing through a nagging thumb injury on his throwing hand.

Jason Hanson kicked field goals from 31 and 36 yards out in two Detroit's first three possessions, closing out drives that covered a combined 98 yards. New England's Adam Vinatieri countered with field goals from 24 and 47 yards, the latter set up by a Batch fumble during a sack.

With a running game ranked second-worst in the league in yards per carry, Bledsoe passed on New England's first nine plays. He threw five times to Terry Glenn, completing three for 50 yards during a 78-yard march that chewed up 7:36 and was capped by Vinatieri's tying 24-yard field goal.

Herman Moore had four catches for 42 yards for Detroit, including a 20-yarder that pushed him past 9,000 receiving yards over his 10-year career.

NOTES: The game was New England's first trip to Detroit for Thanksgiving. The Lions have now played 21 different teams in the annual game since the first one in 1934, when the Lions lost 19-16 to Chicago. Detroit's record on the holiday now is 32-27-2. ... Lions DT James Jones left the game in the second quarter with a pulled hamstring and did not return. ... Westbrook's 101-yard interception return tied the longest in Silverdome history. Green Bay's George Teague also had a 101-yard return in the 1993 playoffs. ... Bledsoe bruised his knee but stayed in the game.

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