Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Extra! Extra! THE DETROIT LIONS ARE 3-0 IN THE PRESEASON!
You might not be moved to spit out your morning coffee -- or your midmorning iced tea, since we're posting a bit later than usual. But the fact of the matter is the Lions haven't opened the preseason with three consecutive victories since 1995. (They made the playoffs that season with a 10-6 record, behind Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Scott Mitchell and the rest of the gang.)
We're not suggesting the Lions' sharp preseason means they'll earn a postseason berth in 2008. But it's nevertheless added to the growing optimism around their chances this season. After a 26-6 victory Saturday over the Cleveland Browns, in fact, Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski wrote: "The Lions have a chance to show more progress than we anticipated." That's about as optimistic as things can get this time of year in Detroit.
The primary reason for excitement has been the play of quarterback Jon Kitna, who completed nine of 11 passes against the Browns and has a 150.5 passer rating this preseason.
In addition to Kitna, however, the Lions got a 35-yard touchdown run Saturday night from rookie running back Kevin Smith and their defense held the Derek Anderson-less Brown offense to three plays in each of its first three series.
The running game has been a point of emphasis all summer long as coach Rod Marinelli tries to mold the team closer to his tough-guy image. So it was fun to read his comments Sunday morning in the Detroit Free Press. It sounded like a guy who smells blood and is going for more. (That was kind of a mixed metaphor, but it works.)
"It's got to get better," Marinelli said of the running game, according to the Free Press. "It's got to be more consistent. We had a couple that broke, which is good. But what I want is a punishment. I want to punish a defense. I want to take their legs out of them so they can't rush. That's what I'm trying to do. Will we run for 2,000 yards? I don't know. But I want to be physical."
Elsewhere around the NFC North:
Chicago Bears running back Kevin Jones appears no worse for the wear after making his preseason debut last Thursday against San Francisco. Jones ran three times for 30 yards less than nine months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. If all goes well, he will enter the season as a change-of-pace option for starter Matt Forte while continuing to build strength.
Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson wouldn't reveal the severity of rookie guard Josh Sitton's knee injury and it's not clear how much time Sitton will miss. He was the odds-on favorite to start at right guard, and with center Scott Wells sidelined by a lower back injury, the Packers' line remains in flux. One opening night possibility could be Jason Spitz at center, with Daryn Colledge and Allen Barbre at guards.
We brought you the highlights Saturday night of the Minnesota Vikings' 12-10 loss to Pittsburgh, but here's one more story to add: Defensive end Kenechi Udeze was released from the hospital about three weeks ago after undergoing bone-marrow transplant surgery to combat leukemia. He will have to wear a mask for three months whenever he leaves his home to guard against infection.