Lions give thanks for Barry Sanders
PONTIAC, Mich. -- While Barry Sanders is running out of records to break,others are running out of words.
Somebody made the comparison that he was in a Lambroghini and Iwas in a Chevy S-10, Chicago linebacker Barry Minter said after Sandersdestroyed the Bears on Thanksgiving Day. You can't ask just one guyto tackle Barry Sanders when you're 10 yards off the ball and have to catchup.
Sanders became the second-leading rusher in NFL history with a 167-yard,three-touchdown performance as the Detroit Lions kept their slim playoffhopes alive with a 55-20 comeback win over the Bears.
I knew Barry was a great back, but I didn't know how great,Lions coach Bobby Ross said. I don't know what else he can accomplish.The guys love him. They love to block for him. It's just perfect. It reallyis.
It was the most points ever scored by the Lions (7-6) in a regular seasongame, breaking the old record of 52 which had stood for 45 years. It alsowas the most points ever allowed the Bears.
The sensational performance by Sanders almost overshadowed the fact thatthe Lions, who ran off 35 unanswered points, once trailed 17-3 and werebehind 20-17 at halftime.
Sanders began the comeback with a 40-yard TD run with 47 seconds leftin the second quarter. The Bears (2-11) appeared almost powerless to stopSanders as he added a 25-yard scoring dash in the third quarter and zig-zaggedhis way to the end zone from 15 yards out early in the fourth quarter.
Every game the guy does something that when you think you've seeit all ... Chicago coach Dave Wannstedt said, his words trailingoff. You've got to give him credit.
Sanders, who had rushed for a total of only 53 yards in the first twogames, now has 1,594 yards on the strength of 11 straight games of 100 ormore yards, a streak that began against the Bears in Week 3. In the process,Sanders moved past Eric Dickerson (13,259) into second place on the all-timeNFL rushing charts with 13,319 career-yards, and now trails only WalterPayton (16,726).
It's nice that now I won't have to hear about passing someone fora while, the good-natured Sanders said. Walter took the recordan awfully long way, and there is no guarantee that I will ever get there.It won't be for a few years if I do.
No other player in NFL history has rushed for 11 straight 100-yard gamesin a season. Marcus Allen had an 11-game streak, but it was spread overtwo seasons.
Sanders, the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,500 yards or morein five seasons -- the last four in a row -- also moved into sole possessionof second place for career 100-yard games with 65. He had been tied withDickerson.
The Bears, starting the game with almost perfect execution on both offenseand defense, scored on three straight possessions.
Eric Kramer, who completed 13 of 26 passes for 259 yards, hooked up withRicky Proehl for a 53-yard gain during a seven-play drive that ended ina 2-yard TD run by Raymont Harris.
On the only play of the next Chicago possession, Kramer teamed up withProehl for a 78-yard touchdown.
After Jason Hanson and Jeff Jaeger traded field goals of 40 and 52 yards,the Lions finally put a scoring drive together. Sanders ran for 15 and turneda short pass into a 12-yard gain before Scott Mitchell, who was 20 of 31for 282 yards, found Herman Moore in the end zone for an 8-yard TD toss.
The Bears responded with a 32-yard field goal, but a trademark 40-yardtouchdown dash by Sanders narrowed Chicago's lead to 20-17 shortly beforehalftime. Sanders slipped through a hole off right tackle and sprinted forthe corner of the end zone, pulling away from defenders.
It seemed like the minute he hit that first touchdown run, thewind went right out of our sails, Chicago defensive end Mark Thomassaid.
Sanders opened the second half with a 14-yard run, and minutes laterHanson's 29-yard field goal tied it 20-20.
The Lions needed only four plays to go 60 yards for a TD on their nextpossession, with Mitchell finding Johnnie Morton alone behind blown coverageon a 50-yard scoring play and a 27-20 lead with 6:57 left in the third quarter.
Moments later, Kramer's fumble was recovered by Detroit's Luther Elliss.
On the second snap, Sanders made one of his trademark dipping and divingruns, going 25 yards for another TD and a 34-20 lead. He added his thirdTD with 13:28 left in the fourth quarter and retired for the day.
Ron Rivers tacked on a 15-yard TD run and Tracy Scroggins returned afumble 17 yards for a score.