Lions express hits pothole

Lions running back Jerome Harrison rushes the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland,...

Lions running back Jerome Harrison rushes the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, Aug. 19, 2011. (JASON MILLER/Getty Images/AFP)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:06 PM ET

TORONTO - The sun no longer appears to be shining on the Detroit Lions.

Last Sunday a few dark clouds appeared in the form of the San Francisco 49ers who knocked them off their unbeaten perch by virtue of a come-from-behind 25-19 victory.

On top of that loss and in preparing for another rough test in the Atlanta Falcons, the Lions have to figure out their running game, the specific problem being just who will be carrying the ball?

The Lions thought they had solved the problem of who will replace Jahvid Best — he suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s loss and is doubtful for the Falcons game — when on Tuesday they sent running back Jerome Harrison and a 2013 draft pick to Philadelphia for running back Ronnie Brown.

That trade, though, was negated when a physical by the Eagles discovered that Harrison has a brain tumour. If there is anything positive about being diagnosed with a brain tumour, it is the fact that if the trade had not been made, Harrison’s condition would not have been discovered and treatment would have been delayed.

We all wish him well.

The Lions' running back problems, meanwhile, continue and one possible remedy that was floated was for them to take a look at Tiki Barber, the former Giants star who retired from the game but due to financial difficulties attempted a comeback this spring but found no willing takers.

Tiki Barber? Are the Lions that desperate?

The Lions worked out a number of free agent running backs on Tuesday but it seems the best bet is that they will go with Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams if Best is unable to play. A nine-year veteran, Morris has proved he’s a dependable backup in the past. In nine-plus seasons, Morris has appeared in 135 games where he has rushed for 3,352 yards on 796 carries for an average of 4.2 yards. He has also rushed for 12 touchdowns.

“Maurice has answered the bell anytime that it’s rung for him,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “He’s been a very productive runner for us and we know that he’ll do well if he plays on Sunday and Keiland (Williams) has shown some really nice things. A little bit more short-yardage and goal line and things like that, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing he can do.

“He played a lot of third down back for the Redskins last year. He’s done some really nice things for us and, no matter who we’re handing the ball to, we expect them to gain yards and be able to make explosive plays for us.”

Whether either can make up for the loss of Best is another matter as Best leads the Lions in rushing with 390 yards and is their third-leading receiver with 287 yards.

“He’s obviously a key part of what we do offensively, but we’ve been very efficient without him in the game in the past,” Schwartz said. “We had that situation in the preseason where both him and (Morris) were being rested because of injury considerations and we still managed to execute at a pretty high level then.

“Each of the guys we have is a little bit different. Jahvid is different than Maurice and he’s different than Keiland, so I think they all bring something a little different to the table.”

It’s a big game for the Lions who want to show they can bounce back against a top opponent. Without Best, though, the task is that more difficult.

BROWNED OFF

Are big changes once more in the wind in Cleveland?

If you listen to what Browns president Mike Holmgren says the answer could be “Yes” as it seems he isn’t going to wait very long for the mediocrity to continue.

The 2-3 Browns, whose victories have come against the downtrodden Colts and Dolphins — are home to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and a loss would add a few more frown lines on Holmgren’s face.

Last year it seemed as if Colt McCoy was the answer to their problems at the quarterback position but Holmgren this week has been cracking the whip on their third-round pick in the 2010 draft.

“Let’s let him (McCoy) play and see how he performs and we’ll evaluate it at the end of year,” Holmgren told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Holmgren also said he’s not opposed to adding a new quarterback every year until one sticks declaring: “You have to find that person.”

Perhaps Holmgren is simply attempting to light a fire under McCoy, who on the season has completed just 55.8% of his passes.

One thing is clear, he expects more from McCoy and the quarterback position than he’s getting now.

Right now the Browns and McCoy are playing conservative football. They don’t stretch the field and as a result the Browns have had just eight offensive plays that were longer than 20 yards.

“I don’t know about (throwing) down field,” rookie head coach Pat Shurmur said. “There are times in the game when he was off the mark. We’ll just keep working on getting him better. There’s nothing specific. Each pass play has a component of protection, a component of a route, route depth and then an accurate throw tied to mechanics. We just have to get better at all of it.”

It starts with improvement from McCoy.

RUNNING GAME STUCK IN NEUTRAL

There has been a lot of finger pointing on certain teams this season but the Tennessee Titans want to make sure that particular divisive exercise doesn’t get a toehold in their clubhouse.

Take running back Chris Johnson for example.

The one time all-world running back has looked extremely mortal this season as he has gained just 250 yards on 83 carries for a 3.0 yard average and one rushing TD. The Titans are currently last in the league in rushing and that is hard to believe given a back of Johnson’s ability.

But he’s not about to throw his offensive line under the bus.

“That’s the thing we really don’t want to get into,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to get into me blaming the offensive line and the offensive line blaming me and things like that.

“I know I am the same player I’ve always been; it’s just things are not working right now.”

His teammates so far have been supportive regarding his slow start.

“Trust me, it is not him,” guard Jake Scott said. “We don’t have assignment busts, and we haven’t really had assignment busts all year. It is just a matter of doing everything a little bit better, doing things more aggressively and knocking people off the ball.”

This Sunday Johnson and the Titans need to get their running game going if they have any hope of beating the Texans.


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