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Rookie leads Lions to win

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 30, 2002

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

Harrington gave the Lions their first win of the season and 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 deal. He perfectly lofted a pass over Az-Zahir Hakim's shoulder for a 40-yard gain. On the next play, Harrington hit Bill Schroeder in stride for a 38-yard score.

"Those are the best I got," Harrington said with a smile.

Detroit hasn't had stability at quarterback since Bobby Layne started from 1951 until the team's last league title 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. When he tells you something, you believe in him, because when you look in his eyes, you see a guy with a ton of confidence and a lot of determination."

Harrington was 20-of-36, didn't get sacked and didn't throw an interception after throwing four 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 fell behind 20-0 for the second straight week but couldn't match the comeback they staged against Chicago.

New Orleans' Deuce McAllister was held to 61 yards rushing but caught eight passes for 67 yards. And the Saints attempted their fourth-quarter comeback without standout receivers Joe Horn (knee) and Donte' Stallworth (hamstring).

New Orleans cut its deficit to 20-7 late in the first half, pulled within eight late in the third quarter and made it 26-21 on Aaron Brooks' 6-yard pass to Jerome Pathon with 3:41 to go.

After New Orleans kicked deep instead of attempting an onside kick, Harrington connected with Larry Foster for a first down, and James Stewart ran for 36 yards just after the two-minute warning to seal the win.

"We played good for a half, but football is 60 minutes," McAllister said. "We got to start playing the first half. If we come out and play and execute in the first half, it's not even a question in the end."

Brooks was 27-of-48 for 269 yards with two touchdowns, but he lost a fumble, had two second-half interceptions in Detroit territory and was sacked three times.

After the Lions went ahead 20-0, New Orleans responded with a 12-play, 91-yard drive, capped by Brooks' 4-yarder to Stallworth.

The Saints threatened on the first possession of the second half, but Corey Harris intercepted Brooks' overthrown pass to McAllister at Detroit's 10 and returned it to New Orleans' 41.

Jason Hanson's 23-yard field goal put the Lions ahead 23-7.

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