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Harrington Starting to Pay Off

September 30, 2002|From Associated Press

DETROIT — Joey Harrington already had the look, the arm and the bank account of a starting NFL quarterback. Now he has a victory.

The rookie from Oregon threw for 267 yards and a touchdown, and didn't make any costly mistakes, as the Lions beat New Orleans, 26-21, Sunday to hand the Saints their first loss.

Harrington gave the Lions their first win of the season and only the third in 20 games for Coach Marty Mornhinweg.

On the possession that put the Lions ahead, 20-0, Harrington showed why Detroit made him the third pick in the draft and signed him to a six-year, $36-million contract. He perfectly lofted a pass over the shoulder of Az-Zahir Hakim for a 40-yard completion. On the next play, Harrington hit Bill Schroeder in stride for a 38-yard touchdown.

"Those are the best I got," Harrington said with the smile that helped sell his "Joey Heisman" campaign at Oregon last season.

Harrington was 25-3 as a starter in college, and the Lions (1-3) are hoping he's the big-game quarterback they've been longing for.

Detroit hasn't had a quarterback play in the Pro Bowl since Greg Landry in 1971, and hasn't had long-term stability at the position since Bobby Layne started from 1951 until Detroit won the NFL championship in 1957. Since then, the team has used more than 20 starting quarterbacks.

"He's going to be the quarterback for the ages here," teammate Todd Lyght said of Harrington. "The kid is a playmaker and is a natural born leader. I love the way he handles himself."

Harrington completed 20 of 36 passes, didn't get sacked or had a pass intercepted after having four intercepted in his first start last week against Green Bay.

"Young quarterbacks go on streaks, and that's what he did today," Mornhinweg said. "He'll have down stretches too, but today he was good."

The Saints (3-1) fell behind, 20-0, for the second consecutive week, but they couldn't match the comeback they staged against Chicago, losing receivers Joe Horn (knee) and Donte Stallworth (hamstring) to injuries in the fourth quarter.

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