Lions have long been Packers' salve

Saturday, December 11th 2004, 3:23 pm

By: News On 6

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Brett Favre is coming off the worst loss of his career, a 47-17 drubbing at Philadelphia in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the second time in his last 65 games.

It seems as though he and the rest of the Green Bay Packers have the perfect prescription for bouncing back with a visit Sunday from the Detroit Lions, who haven't won in Wisconsin since 1991.

The only player on either team who was around to witness the Lions' last win at Lambeau Field is Detroit defensive tackle Kelvin Pritchett, who was a rookie reserve when the Lions pulled out a 21-17 win on Dec. 15, 1991.

"Eighth grade," Lions quarterback Joey Harrington said when asked what he was doing back then.

Harrington has been through puberty, prom, four years of college and three years of pro football since then, while Favre has been beating the Lions 10 straight times in Green Bay and three more times at old County Stadium in Milwaukee.

The Lions haven't exactly had much success in Michigan, either, when it comes to facing Favre and the Packers (7-5), who turned their season around with a big win at Detroit two months ago that sent the Lions (5-7) into a tailspin.

The Packers aren't counting on history, however.

"At this point, you can't assume anything against anybody," Green Bay safety Bhawoh Jue said.

Favre isn't thinking about his perfect mark against Detroit just as he's not dwelling on the Packers' flop at Philly.

"It's no different than losing last week. You have to forget the past and go on," Favre said. "I don't know how many games we've beaten them here, but it has no factor in this week's game. There is no magic formula. We just have outplayed them here for whatever reason."

Packers coach Mike Sherman reminded his players that their 38-10 win at Detroit on Oct. 17 was close at halftime before Darren Sharper's touchdown return on an interception early in the third quarter broke it open.

"We're not a good enough team to be looking past anything or anybody," right guard Mark Tauscher said. "Detroit has beaten a lot of teams this year and they played us tough. The whole first half, it was a dogfight."

And the Packers will be facing a different team, too.

In their last meeting, the Packers held the Lions to 125 yards of offence and five first downs. But the Lions were without three key offensive players who hope to help them salvage their season.

Wide receiver Roy Williams, the Lions' No. 1 draft pick, suited up but didn't play because of a sprained ankle. Running back Kevin Jones, who rushed for 196 yards against Arizona last week, was limited and fullback Cory Schlesinger wasn't at full strength.

"It's going to be a different team that we're going to see," Sharper said.

Then again, the Packers were without their mammoth nose tackle Grady Jackson last time, too.

The Packers are 13-4 with Jackson in the lineup since his mid-season arrival last year. Green Bay's last two opponents, St. Louis and Philadelphia, essentially abandoned the run game, in part because the Packers' rattled secondary was easy pickings.

"We're a team that's going to try to be balanced like most teams are with the run and the pass and we're just going to see how it goes," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said.

Jackson can't wait.

In the five games he missed after dislocating a kneecap in the opener, the Packers allowed an average of 109 yards rushing a game and 4.96 yards a carry. In the seven games he's played, those numbers drop to 72 yards a game and 3.22 yards a carry.

Jackson is just about the only bright spot on a putrid Packers' defence that has allowed 912 yards through the air the last two weeks. They're getting almost no pass rush, their blitzing linebackers aren't getting to the quarterback and their secondary looked clueless in zone coverage last week and in man-to-man the week before. The best defensive back, cornerback Al Harris, is grumbling about game plans and how he's being used.

Sherman hinted a lineup change was in the offing in addition to Paris Lenon filling in for weak side linebacker Na'il Diggs (kidney). But his options are limited by injuries and inexperience in the secondary and the coaches and players are left to just try harder.

"Shoot, just focus, I guess, and get better in our assignments, alignments and adjustments," safety Mark Roman suggested.

Or, as embattled defensive coordinator Bob Slowik said: "We have to prepare better, perform better, practice better, play better on Sunday. And then make sure we do our job and get a good game plan."

Or else the Lions at Lambeau will no longer be such a sure thing.

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