|Friday, October 5, 2001|
MNF Past, Present and Future: Week 4
By George Hill and Malibu Kelly Hayes
Special to ABC Sports Online
Monday Night Football's spotting and statistical gurus, George Hill and Malibu Kelly Hayes, view the game from a unique perspective, which the duo share each week on Monday Night Online, giving an in-depth preview of the upcoming MNF game by looking at the matchup from the past, present, and the future. Here is the latest installment, leading up to this Monday's game between the St. Louis Rams and the Detroit Lions (ABC, 9 p.m. ET).
The Past: A look at some past performances on MNF by this week's teams.
The Present: The next layer looks at some of this Monday's key performers.
The Future: Chat with George and Kelly this Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Click here to send in a question.
Monday Night Past
The Detroit Lions are hurting.
After losing their first two games under new coach Marty Mornhinweg and new president Matt Millen, they find themselves in the unenviable position of having to face the high-powered St. Louis Rams. Though it is early in the season, it would not be unfair to label this a must-win situation for the Lions.
However, Detroit has been in this situation before. In 1995, the Lions lost their first three games of the season. With an 0-3 record, the pundits were calling for coach Wayne Fontes scalp. Making matters worse, they were about to face Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers that were not only the defending Super Bowl champions, but a team that had won their first four games of the season.
The Monday Night affair had all the earmarks of another long night for Detroit. But surprises are not uncommon when the primetime spotlight is focused on a wounded team with talent. On Sept. 25, 1995 the Detroit Lions used some unexpected weapons to defeat the 49ers in the Silverdome.
While most eyes were on Barry Sanders, it was Scott Mitchell who would play the starring role. Mitchell was 28-of-42 with a touchdown pass to Herman Moore in the fourth quarter, which gave the Lions a 24-17 lead. San Francisco responded to tie the contest at 24 on a Steve Young toss to John Taylor. With just minutes remaining the Lions drove from their own 26-yard line to put kicker Jason Hanson in position to hit a 32-yard field that gave Detroit a 27-24 win.
The win helped propel the Lions to a 10-6 season as they lost just three more
times in 1995. Their run of seven straight wins to close the year was good enough
to put them into the wild-card playoff round where they were demolished by
the Philadelphia Eagles 58-37.
|Scott Mitchell, not Barry Sanders, keyed the Lions' upset of the 49ers in 1995.|
Monday Night Present
Here's a look at some of the key players to watch:
LIONS QB TY DETMER
Timing. For a quarterback running the West Coast offense, it is one of the most important elements -- besides having talented wide receivers -- in order to be successful. With two bye weeks over the last three weeks, Detroit's Ty Detmer has been given an opportunity to get his timing down, and get in sync with his teammates.
Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg acquired Detmer last month from Cleveland because he wanted a quarterback that was knowledgeable in running the West Coast offense. Plus, Ty had played under Mornhinweg in San Francisco and Green Bay.
After watching immobile Charlie Batch get sacked seven times in the season opener against Green Bay, Mornhinweg designated Detmer as the team's starter in their next game against Cleveland, only to see him throw seven interceptions in another loss. Despite the seven picks, Mornhinweg wasted no time in announcing that Detmer would remain Detroit's starting quarterback, which may speak more about his lack of faith in Batch than his faith in Detmer.
To have any chance at beating the Rams, the Lions will have to control the clock by running the ball and with the short passing game, thus keeping Warner, Faulk and the blazers that line up at wide receiver for the Rams off the field. Detmer's knowledge of the offense probably gives the Lions the best chance for a win, especially if the extra practice time has allowed him to gel with his offensive teammates.
RAMS CB AENEAS WILLIAMS
Three games into the season, it's apparent that the 2001 Rams defense has improved dramatically over the one the team fielded last season. New defensive coordinator Lovie Smith was given the mandate to rebuild the defense that gave up a league high 471 points in 2000.
The speed of the current unit has been upgraded dramatically over last year's group, and one of the keys in that area has been the addition of corner Aeneas Williams.
Acquired in a draft day trade from the Arizona Cardinals, Williams has made an immediate impact with the Rams. He is currently tied for the team lead with 14 tackles, and is part of a squad that has allowed just one pass play over 30 yards and only 53 points in the team's first three games. Last year in their first three games, the Rams allowed six pass plays over 30 yards and gave up 94 points.
One of the league's best cover corners, Williams, who will be making his 161st consecutive start at left cornerback, is looking for his first interception of the season. In facing the Lions -- a team that has thrown nine in their first two games -- Williams is eager to be the one to take the Lions' interception number into double digits on Monday Night.
RAMS RB MARSHALL FAULK
The fact that Marshall Faulk is going to get the ball is not a surprise. What is surprising is what he does with it after he gets it. Even though every defensive coordinator in the league knows that Faulk is going to touch the ball around 25 times a game, they still cannot stop him.
Faulk, the league's reigning MVP, leads the NFL with 464 yards from scrimmage and may be the most dangerous offensive player in the league yet again. The main reason he is so hard to stop is because of his versatility. Although he is a finesse back capable of breaking a long run every time he touches the ball, he can also be a grind-it-out style of back, if that is required to get the necessary yardage. Plus, no one has figured out a way to stop him as a receiver. Going into this weekend, he leads the NFC in receptions with 22.
With so many skills -- and the Rams' ability to move him around in a variety of formations -- Faulk is destined to create nightmares for the Lions defense on Monday night.
Monday Night Future
This week simply can't be as bad as the last game was for Ty Detmer. His seven picks and three sacks are numbers that will not be repeated.
Despite that, the Lions cannot keep up with a Ram offense that if anything looks to be improved from the last two years in which they literally reinvented the game.
Also, the Ram defense has become a story unto itself under Lovie Smith. Expect the Rams to show the nation that they are again the cream of the NFL crop and send Detroit to 0-3 with a 42-10 victory.
MNF Past, Present and Future with George Hill and Malibu Kelly Hayes appears each Friday on ABC's Monday Night Football site.
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