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Lions Get the Max Out of Batch

November 24, 2000|From Associated Press

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

Playing with ribs bruised by the New England Patriots' defense, the Detroit Lion quarterback passed for one touchdown and ran for another Thursday in a 34-9 victory 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 touchdown run by Batch. "Charlie took some shots like Maximus. He showed me he was Maximus today."

Batch also connected with tight end David Sloan on a touchdown pass and Bryant Westbrook returned an interception 101 yards for a score as the Lions scored 28 points in the second half to run away from the Patriots. The victory moved them to 3-0 under Gary Moeller, who took over as coach when Bobby Ross stepped down.

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

It came at a welcome time for the Lions, who inched closer to the playoffs with a daunting stretch ahead--consecutive road games against the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets.

The Lions (8-4) have potential tiebreaker victories over the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins and New York Giants, all of whom also have four losses. But the Lions considered a victory over the Patriots (3-9) important and looked to Batch to deliver.

He did, much to the Patriots' dismay.

"They opened up and whipped us," Patriot free safety Larry Whigham said.

Said Patriot Coach Bill Belichick: "We played competitively, but in the third quarter some things got away from us,"

That was Batch's doing.

With the Lions trailing, 9-6, he put them ahead to stay with a one-yard touchdown pass to Sloan on a fourth-and-goal play with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter.

On the Lions' next possession, Batch took a crushing shot to the chest from Patriot 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 hooked up with Sedrick Irvin on an 18-yard pass to the one. After Batch failed to sneak it in, James Stewart dived in for a touchdown and a 20-9 Detroit lead with 11:18 to play.

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 lead to 27-9.

Batch completed 16 of 24 passes 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 to play, picking off a Bledsoe pass in the end zone and returning it for the touchdown.

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

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

Bledsoe completed 17 of 32 passes for 148 yards but had two costly interceptions before being replaced late in the fourth quarter 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 of 31 and 36 yards in two of the Lions' first three possessions, closing out drives that covered a combined 98 yards.

The Patriots' Adam Vinatieri countered with field goals of 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 the Patriots' first nine plays. He passed five times to Terry Glenn, completing three for 50 yards during a 78-yard march that chewed up more than 7 1/2 minutes 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.

The Lions' record in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game, which was first played in 1934, improved to 32-27-2.

The Patriots made their first trip to Detroit for the holiday.

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