Work in Sports
SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Ron Rivers had the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Barry Sanders. To the surprise of many, he proved to be a more than capable successor as he came through with a clutch performance.
In his first game replacing Sanders in the backfield, Rivers rushed for 96 yards on 16 carries and seemed to imitate his predecessor in the final minutes as the Detroit Lions spoiled coach Mike Holmgren's debut with the Seattle Seahawks, 28-20.
Rivers was named the starter with the offseason retirement of Sanders, who left the Lions as the league's second all-time leading rusher. Few if any expected Detroit to show a competent ground game but Rivers led an impressive rushing attack, which gained 167 yards.
Charlie Batch threw all three of his touchdown passes in the first half as the Lions took a 25-7 lead at intermission. Holmgren guided the Seahawks back into the contest, with Jon Kitna hitting Sean Dawkins for a three-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 25-20 with 7:11 to play.
Rivers ran four times for 24 yards on the ensuing drive as the Lions chewed up nearly five minutes. With the Lions facing 3rd-and-26 at midfield, Batch hit Rivers on a screen pass and the five-year veteran looked like Sanders as he broke three tackles to gain 19 yards and push his team into field goal range.
Jason Hanson booted the 49-yard attempt to increase the lead with 2:15 to play.
The Lions defense, which sacked Kitna six times, forced Seattle to turn the ball over on downs just 27 seconds later. Rivers rushed for four yards on the next play, then darted through a stacked line for 13 yards and a first down to seal the win.
Batch finished 16-of-26 for 216 yards even without star wideout Herman Moore, who did not make a catch and left early in the first quarter with a sprained left knee.
Holmgren, who left the Green Bay Packers this offseason to become coach and general manager of the Seahawks, saw Kitna complete 20-of-30 for 202 yards and two scores. The absence of a running game and star wide receiver Joey Galloway, who remains a holdout, were too much for Holmgren and Kitna to overcome.
Ricky Watters managed just 21 yards on 13 carries and Seattle gained a measly 31 yards on the ground.
Seahawks linebacker Chad Brown had 1 1/2 sacks before suffering a neck injury in the first half. He was taken off the field by ambulance, citing pain in his neck, and was brought to a local hospital. X-rays were negative.
Seattle seemed doomed from the start. Kitna was sacked by linebacker Allen Aldridge on the first play from scrimmage. On that same possession, cornerback Bryant Westbrook forced wideout Sean Dawkins to fumble and safety Mark Carrier recovered at the Seahawks' 32. That led to a 51-yard field goal by Hanson.
Later in the first quarter, Todd Peterson missed a 32-yard field goal and on Detroit's ensuing drive, Batch led the Lions 77 yards in 10 plays. He connected with Germane Crowell on a 16-yard touchdown just five seconds into the second period to make it 10-0.
A fumbled punt return by Charlie Rogers set up Detroit at Seattle's 5 and after recent acquisition Greg Hill ran for no gain, Batch hit tight end David Sloan in the end zone.
Matters grew worse moments later for Seattle, which lost six yards on its next possession and was forced to punt from its own end zone. The snap flew over the head of Jeff Feagles and out of bounds, giving the Lions a safety and an 18-0 cushion.
Seattle's offense was unable to put points on the board, so the defense helped out. Cornerback Willie Williams picked off Batch at the Lions' 40 and raced to the end zone with 9:14 left before halftime.
Batch quickly rebounded, leading an 83-yard drive on Detroit's next possession and firing a 41-yard bomb to Crowell for the touchdown and a 25-7 lead. Crowell had career highs with seven catches for 141 yards.
Fullback Cory Schlesinger sparked that drive with a 16-yard run.
He finished with 50 yards on 10 carries, while Hill ran seven times for 24 yards.
Kitna finally got Seattle's offense on the board with 3:29 left in the third, finding Dawkins for a 26-yard score. Dawkins made seven catches for 85 yards.