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Detroit Free Press: LIONS NOTEBOOK: Kitna gets protected well; kickoff coverage vexes


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BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071210/SPORTS01/712100347/1049

FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

The Lions' offensive line left with a little pride after Sunday's 28-27 loss to Dallas.

Entering the game, the Lions ranked last in rushing and sacks allowed. The Cowboys ranked fourth against the run and tied for fourth in sacks.

But the Lions rushed for 152 yards and allowed only one sack -- on the last play of the game, when quarterback Jon Kitna was holding the ball looking for a Hail Mary pass.

"I think it's encouraging the way we ran the ball and mixed in the pass," left tackle Jeff Backus said. "I don't know how it looked, but it felt like we had control of the game. ...

"Guys on the offensive line really felt good about our running game. The pass protection was for the most part decent all game. Guys just felt really good about the plan and how things were getting executed."

Coach Rod Marinelli, Kitna and others pointed to Damien Woody, who has played right tackle for the first time since high school the past two games and has solidified a shaky spot.

"Overall today, I thought we played pretty well," Woody said. "I thought we were physical. We got after them. I thought we executed pretty well today."

WHERE'S SHAUN? Cowboys running back Marion Barber scored a one-yard touchdown on fourth down two plays into the fourth quarter. He ran through a gaping hole in the middle of the line and into the end zone standing up.

Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who weighs 360-plus pounds and is supposed to be one of the Lions' best players, was not on the field. Did Rogers need a rest? There had just been a time-out between quarters.

"We're just rotating fresh guys in there," Marinelli said.

KICKOFF PROBLEMS: The Lions allowed another long kickoff return at the end of the first quarter, when Miles Austin ran 60 yards down the right sideline. Had kicker Jason Hanson not forced Austin to step out of bounds, it would have been a touchdown.

"I was concerned after that one," Marinelli said.

After that, Hanson booted short kickoffs to keep the Cowboys from returning them. After the game, Marinelli voiced his displeasure with the kickoff coverage unit.

"We've just got to keep looking for answers, or I will have to put more starters on it, one or the other," Marinelli said. "This can't keep up. It's been hurting us now for a month."

ODDS AND ENDS: Defensive end Kalimba Edwards, who has one sack since the opener, was left out of uniform. "I thought the other guys were rushing better," Marinelli said. ... Linebacker Boss Bailey woke up with the flu and did not play ...

Troy Walters suffered a concussion returning a kickoff in the first quarter. Aveion Cason returned kickoffs afterward. Brandon Middleton, just signed from the practice squad, returned the last one because the Lions hoped his speed might produce a big play. ...

Fullback Casey Fitzsimmons left late in the first with a lower leg contusion. Safety Kenoy Kennedy left late in the third with a hamstring injury.

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