The Detroit Lions ended the longest road losing streak in NFL history their last time out, winning away from Ford Field for the first time in more than three years.
They might be heading into the perfect venue to pull off another one.
The Lions try to follow their overtime victory by extending their winning streak to three Sunday in Miami, where the Dolphins hope to avoid matching the worst home record in franchise history.
Detroit (4-10) lost six times by five points or fewer in its first 12 games, but it’s finally been on the other end of some close contests the past two weeks.
The defense stepped up against Green Bay on Dec. 12, knocking out Aaron Rodgers and forcing three turnovers in a 7-3 home victory. Last week, it was the offense’s turn to shine.
The Lions ran for 181 yards and Drew Stanton threw for a career-high 252 yards and a touchdown in a 23-20 overtime win over Tampa Bay, snapping the franchise’s 26-game road losing streak.
Detroit’s last road victory came Oct. 28, 2007, against Chicago.
“What’s happened two years ago, what happened last year, three years ago, whatever it was, isn’t important to this football team right now,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “Winning is important to this football team right now. Winning on the road is a step that we needed to take.”
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have been outstanding on the road. Their 6-1 record away from south Florida includes wins against Green Bay, Oakland and the New York Jets.
The three other teams that are 6-1 on the road – the Jets, Steelers and Bears – have either clinched a playoff berth or can this week, but Miami will be sitting home in January.
The Dolphins fell to 1-6 at Sun Life Stadium with last Sunday’s 17-14 loss to Buffalo, giving them a home-road disparity never before seen in NFL history.
It was Miami’s eighth defeat in its last nine home games. With a loss to Detroit, the Dolphins (7-7) would match their 2007 franchise-worst home record.
That team finished 1-15.
“They’ve been booing the last couple of weeks, so I guess we’re used to it,” said quarterback Chad Henne, who has nine interceptions in his last six games. “It’s a sick feeling for us not to have home-field advantage.”
Receiver Brandon Marshall went as far as to apologize to Miami’s defense during his postgame remarks Sunday, and it’d be understandable if that unit was feeling some frustrations. The defense has yielded 267.3 yards and 14.3 points per game since Nov. 14 – both second-best in the NFL.
The offense has diminished the impact of those numbers, looking particularly bad in the past three games. Miami is averaging 11.3 points and 246.0 yards in December – both second-worst in the league – and has committed eight turnovers.
Combined with Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter’s seven misses in the past four weeks – he was 22 of 25 before Thanksgiving – and it’s easy to see why the Dolphins’ struggles to put points on the board has some questioning coach Tony Sparano’s job status.
“I just need to get my team ready to play this week,” Sparano said. “That’s all I need to do. That’s my concern. Everything else is out of my control. Let somebody else deal with it.”
Despite Stanton’s impressive performance Sunday, he might not be under center as Detroit looks for its first three-game winning streak since Oct. 21-Nov. 4, 2007 – and the franchise’s first victory in five tries in Miami.
Stanton hurt his non-throwing shoulder against the Bucs, and though he finished the game, Shaun Hill took snaps with the first-string offense Wednesday. That makes Hill the likely starter this week, which would be his first action since breaking his right index finger in a Thanksgiving loss to New England.
“I’m just going to push it and hope to be the guy,” Hill said.
Regardless of whether Hill or Stanton gets the call, Detroit will probably look to get Maurice Morris and the running game heavily involved. The Lions have averaged 158.5 yards on the ground the past four weeks, and Morris had 15 carries for 109 yards against Tampa Bay.
They certainly won’t want to ignore Calvin Johnson, though. Detroit’s top wideout, tied for the NFC lead with 12 touchdowns, is averaging 118.0 yards in his last four road games.
Marshall and Davone Bess, meanwhile, need three receptions to pass Mark Clayton and Jim Jensen’s 22-year-old franchise record of catches by a duo with 144.
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