Lions humble struggling Browns

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 25, 2003

DETROIT -- Scotty Anderson kept Detroit's preseason success in perspective.

Sure, Anderson was excited about catching two touchdown passes as the Lions beat the Cleveland Browns 38-17 Saturday night.

He also realized the Lions have won two of three exhibition games after two miserable years followed one-win preseasons.

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But he's not ready to start making bold predictions for the Lions, who are coming off just five wins -- none on the road -- over the past two seasons.

''It's nice, but it's still preseason,'' said Anderson, who caught TD passes from Joey Harrington and Mike McMahon. ''We still have a lot of work to do.''

Just as Harrington did in Detroit's exhibition win over Pittsburgh, he led the Lions to a go-ahead score at the end of the first half. Jason Hanson's 23-yard kick as time expired gave Detroit a 13-10 lead.

In the third quarter, Hanson kicked another field goal and backup quarterback Mike McMahon threw a 32-yard TD pass to Anderson and ran for another score to give the Lions a 31-10 lead.

The Browns, who have growing concerns on defense, will look for their first exhibition win Thursday night at home against Atlanta.

A week after Cleveland coach Butch Davis selected Kelly Holcomb as his starter, ahead of Tim Couch, it was clear why he made the decision.

Holcomb was 14-of-21 for 130 yards and a TD. Couch, who fumbled his first snap, finished 2-of-6 for 25 yards with one TD and one interception.

Couch said it was frustrating not to start.

''It was the first time I've ever done that,'' said Couch, the No. 1 overall pick in 1999. ''It was a tough week, but you need to block out your emotions.''

Harrington, who was 15-of-20 for 184 yards with a TD and an interception, was strong after a rough start.

Harrington had time when he dropped back on Detroit's second play, but when he couldn't find an open receiver and he felt pressure, he threw the ball up for grabs deep and down the middle of the field and Earl Little intercepted it.

''Coach said when I got to the sideline that the throw was mortal sin,'' Harrington said.

The second-year quarterback bounced back the next time he had a chance.

On a third-and-5 from Detroit's 25, Harrington eluded a sack and threw a pass over the middle to rookie Charles Rogers, who slithered up the field for 26 yards. Harrington completed his first four passes during the 12-play, 75-yard drive that set up Hanson's 23-yard field goal.

''I like the way Joey came back from the mistake he made early on the interception,'' Detroit coach Steve Mariucci said. ''He came back and settled down. It didn't bother him a bit and he played very well.''

Harrington second scoring drive was more impressive than his first.

He completed his first four passes for 15, 14, 16 and 12 yards. The drive stalled, but Mariucci chose to go for it on fourth-and-3 at Cleveland's 4. Harrington showed poise as he looked at in a few different directions before finding Anderson open in the back of the end zone.

''I think this is a big step in regards to our confidence level because we know we can put it in the end zone,'' Harrington said.

Browns defensive backs and defensive linemen appeared to be arguing after the play, but when Davis was asked if there was anything to it, he paused a few seconds before saying, ''No.''

But Davis said his defense should have learned a lesson.

''Having somebody leave coverage to chase the quarterback when he hasn't crossed the line of scrimmage is a cardinal sin,'' Davis said.

Cleveland tied it at 10 late in the second quarter on Phil Dawson's 46-yard kick.

With 22 seconds left in the half, Harrington connected on three passes for 56 yards, including a 36-yard picture-perfect throw to Anderson to set up Hanson field goal.

On Tim Couch's first snap, he fumbled and teammate James Jackson recovered. On Couch's second drive, he threw a pass behind Quincy Morgan that was tipped by Detroit's Blue Adams, intercepted by Lamar Campbell and returned 19 yards to Cleveland's 28.

McMahon rolled right and cut back on a 1-yard TD run five plays later. On a 2-point conversion, he rolled right again and threw back to Avon Cobourne to give Detroit a 24-10 lead. McMahon was 10-of-17 for 114 yards with a throwing and rushing TD.

Cleveland running back William Green was given permission to miss the game because he is expecting his second child any day.