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QB Harrington beats former team on Thanksgiving

Nov 23, 2006 - 8:55 PM DETROIT (Ticker) -- Joey Harrington never threw a touchdown pass on Thanksgiving in his four years with the Detroit Lions. He threw three against them in a triumphant holiday return.

Hearing familiar boos throughout, Harrington passed for 213 yards and connected with Marty Booker on two of his scoring throws to lead the Miami Dolphins to their fourth straight win, a 27-10 victory over the Lions.

"This is my biggest thrill," Harrington said. "It feels great to come back here to Detroit as a winner with a great team."

The Dolphins (5-6) acquired Harrington from Detroit last April for a conditional draft pick that could be a fifth-round selection in 2007. The plan was for Harrington to serve as an insurance policy behind starter Daunte Culpepper, who was coming off reconstructive right knee surgery after being acquired from Minnesota in the offseason.

Culpepper started the first four games, but struggled with his mobility and also suffered a shoulder injury after being sacked 21 times. Dolphins coach Nick Saban determined that Culpepper needed more time to rehabilitate the knee and made Harrington the starter.

After losing their first three games with Harrington at the controls to slip to 1-6, the Dolphins have now won four in a row.

The third overall pick in the 2002 draft, Harrington was a bust in Detroit, compiling an 18-37 record as a starter. He threw for 10,242 yards and 60 touchdowns with 62 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 68.1

In Detroit's traditional Thanksgiving games, Harrington had zero TD passes and five interceptions for a passer rating of 56.3.

This time, Harrington had the benefit of facing the Lions (2-9) and carved them up. In the first half alone, Harrington completed 13-of-21 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

"For as much as I tried to downplay it, for as much as I needed to downplay it for the sake of this team in what we were trying to accomplish, there was still a lot of emotion coming back," Harrington admitted. "I hadn't forgotten what had happened. I moved past it, but it's not something that I sit and dwell on. When I came back on that field I remembered what happened the last four years. I tell you what, it felt good to walk off a winner."

Last Thanksgiving, Harrington was 6-of-13 for 61 yards with an interception in the Lions' 27-7 loss to Atlanta. Four days later, former Lions coach Steve Mariucci was fired and Lions cornerback Fernando Bryant blamed Harrington for the firing.

Numerous closeups of Harrington were displayed on the video boards during the game, inciting the crowd to jeer him.

"I'm not being critical of any organization or fans, but he worked hard for four years here trying to be successful and it's a shame that people can't appreciate the things he tried to do for that organization more than that," Saban said. "To be honest with you, I don't have a lot of respect for what they did. He's been respectful to them."

Harrington proved on Thursday that the problems in Detroit weren't his fault. With new coach Rod Marinelli and new quarterback Jon Kitna, the Lions (2-9) now own the worst record in the NFL and are assured of their sixth straight losing season.

It also marks the fifth time in the last six years that Detroit has lost on Thanksgiving.

"In anything I do, whether it is this game here or playing marbles outside the building, if I lose, I'm going to be embarrassed," Marinelli said. "The stage doesn't matter. The knife goes into you any time you compete and you don't win."

Kitna was sacked eight times and the Lions managed just 21 yards rushing.

Linebacker Zach Thomas, defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday and end Matt Roth each had two sacks for Miami.

The day started out well for the Lions, who jumped to a 10-0 lead on their first two possessions.

Kitna completed 4-of-5 passes for 56 yards on the opening drive, including a 41-yarder to Roy Williams. Kitna capped it with a two-yard scoring toss to tight end Dan Campbell 3:49 into the game.

After Miami went three-and-out, Kitna connected with Williams on passes of 16 and 20 yards to set up a 52-yard field goal by Jason Hanson with 6:23 left in the first quarter.

Williams was unstoppable in the first quarter, catching five passes for 110 yards. But he was held to just one catch for 16 yards the rest of the way.

"This is very disappointing," Williams said. "We're a 2-9 football team. It's hard to keep your head up. Everyone tells us to keep our heads up, because we're better than our record, and maybe we are, but we're still 2-9."

On Miami's second possession, Harrington hit Booker with a 48-yard pass on a crossing pattern. After two runs by Ronnie Brown for seven yards and a false start penalty against tackle Damion McIntosh, Harrington fired an eight-yard touchdown over the middle to Booker with 2:37 remaining in the first quarter.

Kitna, who was 22-of-40 for 252 yards, threw his lone interception in the second quarter and the Dolphins capitalized on it. Kitna tried to force a pass over the middle to Williams, who was double-covered, and safety Renaldo Hill picked it off and returned the interception 21 yards to the Detroit 9.

Three plays later, Harrington hit tight end Randy McMichael with a five-yard scoring pass with 1:55 left in the second quarter to give Miami a 14-10 lead. It was the first touchdown of the season for McMichael.

The Dolphins had a chance to increase the lead, but Harrington had a pass picked off by safety Terrence Holt at the Detroit 1 with three seconds left in the first half.

"He gets rid of the ball real quick and gets it to the open guys," Holt said. "He didn't surprise us at all.

But Miami regained the momentum when Wes Welker returned the opening kickoff of the second half 45 yards. Brown then gained 22 yards on four carries to set up a 42-yard field goal by Olindo Mare 3:11 into the third quarter.

After the Lions went three-and-out, Harrington converted three third-down plays in a nine-play, 60-yard drive. On a 3rd-and-4 play, Harrington escaped a pass rush and tossed a short pass to Booker, who raced 19 yards for a touchdown with 4:17 left in the third quarter, giving the Dolphins a 24-10 lead.

Booker finished with seven catches for 115 yards.

"I stood across the sideline and watched the heads of the players on the other team and I watched the people get up and watched them leave," Harrington said. "It was tough keeping my emotions completely in check. I remember being on that sideline and I remember what that felt like. More than anything, there were guys there that deserved to win and I hope they get things turned around."

Sammy Morris broke off a 55-yard run to set up a 28-yard field goal by Mare with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Morris replaced Brown, who left in the third quarter with a hand injury, and produced 91 yards on 12 carries. Brown had 68 yards on 15 carries.

The Lions played without leading rusher Kevin Jones, who suffered a sprained ankle in last week's 17-10 loss at Arizona. Arlen Harris filled in for Jones and gained just 15 yards on eight carries.

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