Mariucci Wins Debut As Lions Slam Cards
DETROIT (AP) _ Joey Harrington’s right arm and scores on special teams and defense made Steve Mariucci’s debut in Detroit a success. Harrington threw a career-high four touchdown passes as the Lions beat Arizona 42-24 Sunday, spoiling Emmitt Smith’s debut with the Cardinals and Anquan Boldin’s record for a receiver in his NFL debut.
Boldin caught 10 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Boldin, a second-round pick from Florida State, broke the debut receiving record set by Washington’s Hugh Taylor, who had 212 yards against Philadelphia on Sept. 28, 1947.
Boldin’s performance fell short of only Sonny Randle’s 256 yards for the Cardinals in 1962.
Detroit’s rookie receiver had a good day, too. Charles Rogers, the second selection overall, had four receptions for 38 yards and two scores, one on a highlight-worthy dive. He was fully extended on a 13-yard pass from Harrington to put the Lions ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter.
It was a close game between two teams expected to be among the NFL’s worst until the Lions scored three TDs over 7:22.
Lions defensive end Robert Porcher said if he was Smith, he would’ve retired in Dallas after breaking Walter Payton’s NFL rushing record last year. Smith may have thought the same thing after he gained just 4 yards on his first five carries without a blue star on his helmet. He is playing on a poor team after winning three Super Bowls, one MVP award and one Super Bowl MVP trophy in 13 seasons with the Cowboys.
Smith ran for 64 yards on 13 carries, extended his rushing record to 17,226.
Mariucci has created excitement after returning to his home state following his firing in San Francisco, where he was 60-43 with three playoff wins over six seasons. Detroit was 5-27 under Marty Mornhinweg for the worst two-year mark in team history.
Despite the opponent, the Motor City will be more giddy about his presence, along with the young throw-and-catch combination.
Harrington was 17-of-30 for 195 yards and no turnovers. He’s the first Lions quarterback to throw four TDs since Scott Mitchell against Chicago in 1996. Harrington, last year’s third pick in the draft, also led Detroit to its highest-scoring opener since beating Pittsburgh 45-7 in 1962.
The Lions missed James Stewart, out for the year with a dislocated shoulder.
Rogers, who ran for 12 yards on an end-around, was Detroit’s leading rusher until Olandis Gary gained 19 yards late in the game.
Arizona’s Jeff Blake, who replaced Jake Plummer, was 28-of-46 for 316 yards with three TDs. But he had an interception returned for a score and a fumble that set up another TD.
The Cardinals took a 21-14 lead on the first drive of the second half on a short pass to Boldin, who juked Andre Goodman, then raced 71 yards for a score.
Detroit’s Eddie Drummond returned a punt 57 yards to tie the game at 21. The Lions went ahead on Harrington’s 8-yard pass to a wide-open Cory Schlesinger late in the third quarter.
Bill Gramatica kicked a field goal on the next possession, but then Blake’s turnovers ended Arizona’s hopesn.
After Blake fumbled, Harrington showed poise and a strong arm on a 5-yard TD pass to Bill Schroeder. On the ensuing possession, Detroit’s No. 1 free-agent acquisition, cornerback Dre’ Bly, returned an interception 48 yards to end the scoring.
Arizona scored on its season-opening drive _ on Blake’s 7-yard pass to Boldin _ for the first time since 1997.