Road sweet road

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Dec. 17, 2000, is a day that no longer will live in infamy.

It's been more than a month of Sundays, as those with drawls like to say, since the Lions last won a road game. All that changed Sunday when Detroit beat Chicago 20-16 to end a 24-game losing streak as the visitor.

Now Vanderbilt can reclaim its rightful place as football's most popular homecoming opponent.

How long as it been since the Lions last won as the top team on the scoreboard? Let's reminisce:

Jayson Blair ... Laci Peterson ... Space Shuttle Columbia ... SARS ... Joey Ramone ... Federal Do-Not-Call List ... D.C.-area sniper ... Elizabeth Smart ... Benifer ... Chandra Levy ... The Governator ... Metrosexuals ... Xbox ... 24 ... The Intimidator ... XFL ... Danny Almonte ... Seabiscuit ... Aaliyah ... H.R. Ball :) ... hanging chads ... Freddy Got Fingered ... iPod ... Enron ... Sept. 11.

Yeah, it's been a while. It's been a really long while for Lions fans, who often wondered if John Karcis was back on the sidelines.

Kudos to head coach Steve Mariucci, who improved to 1-8 on the road -- one win and eight losses better than his predecesor, Marty Mornhinweg. Sunday also was GM Matt Millen's first victory as a guest; he's now 1-24. ... Hey, you've gotta start somewhere -- and this win may prove to be the springboard to better things for the Lions.

Detroit has a youthful core of players. Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, Kevin Jones -- there are worse players to try to build an offense around. Of course, losing Rogers to a broken collarbone for the second time in as many years brings into question whether he'll remain healthy enough to enjoy the fruits of the Lions' labor.

Nonetheless, Detroit now looks to start a road winning streak. Game 2 of the quest is Oct. 12 at Atlanta, coming off the Lions' Week 4 bye. Is there reason to be optimistic? Consider: Detroit has won eight of the past 11 matchups, is 20-8 all time against the Falcons and is 8-5 as the visitor. But also know the Lions have lost both games played in the Georgia Dome.

Jaguars 13, Bills 10: Taking possession with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter and trailing 10-6, Byron Leftwich capped an 80-yard TD drive with a 7-yard completion to Ernest Wilford as time expired.

Wilford, a fourth-round draft pick, out-muscled three defenders to come down with the ball as he fell out of bounds. Upon further review by the replay officials, the ruling on the field that Wilford was pushed out was upheld.

The game-winning drive was quite a turnaround for the second-year QB. Through the first 58 minutes, Leftwich was only 11-of-23 for 75 yards and two INTs and had converted just two of 10 third-down attempts. However, in crunch time he was money: 7-of-13 for 72 yards and conversions on three fourth-down plays.

Strangest stat line of the day: Jerome Bettis, Steelers -- 5 carries, 1 yard, 3 TDs. That's 18 fantasy points for The Bus, while the Steelers' new Duce (Staley) coupe had nine points (91 yards rushing on 24 carries, his most since getting the ball 31 times Nov. 17, 2002). Bettis' long run for the day was 1 yard. ... The Rams' Marshall Faulk (11,341 yards) eclipsed O.J. Simpson for 13th on the all-time rushing list. ... And if you're wondering, Bettis improved his total to 12,354 yards -- still sixth all time. ... After being held to just 57 yards Sunday, the Ravens' Jamal Lewis is now averaging 186 yards rushing against the Browns the past three meetings. ... Cleveland rookie TE Kellen Winslow Jr. had four catches for 39. By contrast, Jeremy Shockey's first-game totals: three catches for 44 yards. So it's official: The Soldier is now the most overhyped TE the game has seen since Sept. 5, 2002. ...

When was the last time Brett Favre did not throw a TD pass in a game? Oct. 20, 2002, against Washington. His streak is at 25 games, only 22 games behind Johnny Unitas' 47-game record. If Favre goes 6-for-6 to start the season, however, he will be second all time, eclipsing Dan Marino (30, 1985-87). The second-longest active streak: Steve McNair, with 10. ... Ten seems to be the magical number for getting on the all-time passer rating list. Entering the 2004 season, 30 of the top 100 passers in NFL history have 10 letters in their name (another six rank between Nos. 101-140; chart at left). And don't argue the Unitas entry; his given name: John Constantine Unitas. ...

Hey, Lawrence Tynes, don't get used to those 50-yard field goals; the ball travels really well in Denver. Still not a bad few days for the rookie. His alma mater, Troy, spanked Mizzou on Thursday, then on Sunday he booted a 50-yarder in his first NFL game. ... Speaking of 50-yarders, the Rams' Jeff Wilkins extended his team record with the 13th such kick in his career and passed Mike Lansford as the franchise's all-time leading scorer (797 points). ... The Seahawks are now 9-20 in season openers. ... Anyone have David Terrell in the 100-yard pool? The fourth-year WR had 126 yards, the first time he's cracked triple digits in receiving -- and 3 feet less than he had in five games before being injured in 2002. ... The Redskins' 500 regular-season victories rank fourth all time behind Da Bears (641), the Packers (602) and the Giants (571). ...

Priest Holmes is a TD machine. Since joining the Chiefs in 2001, he has nine rushing TDs in seven games against Denver despite being held scoreless three times. ... Is Tim Rattay ready to take the Montana-Young-Garcia torch? The jury's still out, but when was the last time one of those guys had a pass batted down with the game on the line? (It's a rhetorical question, Niners fans; don't e-mail me with 20 difference instances ... please, I'm begging.) Still, Rattay showed a lot of moxie by returning from a shoulder injury to toss two fourth-quarter TD passes. ... Michael Vick Watch: 13 of 22 = 59 percent. ... Eddie George Watch: eight carries for 25 yards = 3.1 ypc. ... After one game, the Quentin Griffin-Clinton Portis debate is a push -- but one thing is certain: Griffin can fill those 150-yard, two-TD shoes.

He's supposed to be the cerebral Manning, but Peyton's fourth-quarter sack Thursday night against New England can best be described as, "What the ... ?"

Trailing 27-24 with 1:43 to play, Manning and the Colts took over at their own 36-yard line. A 45-yard completion to Brandon Stokley gave Indy first-and-10 at the Patriots' 19. Two plays later, with 49 ticks remaining, Manning dropped back on third-and-8 -- and was sacked by Willie McGinest for a 12-yard loss.

So out came Mike Vanderjagt, maker of an NFL-record 42 consecutive field-goal attempts. ... And he promptly pushed a 48-yard try wide right.

QB Daunte Culpepper, Vikings: 17-of-23, 242 yards, 5 TDs -- Several other quarterbacks were worthy of receiving the nod -- Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia -- but Culpepper lit up the Cowboys defense. Nine different receivers caught a pass, including four catches (two for TDs) by Randy Moss.

RB Curtis Martin, Jets: 29 carries, 196 yards, 1 TD -- Entering the season 11th on the league's all-time rushing list, Martin took a sizeable chunk out of the difference between himself and Thurman Thomas. Martin (11,865 yards) now trails the former Bills great by only 209 yards for 10th place. K.C.'s Holmes? One-fifty-plus rushing, three TDs ... it's become the norm for him.

WR Terrell Owens, Eagles: 8 catches, 68 yards 3 TDs -- T.O.'s post-TD antics aside, Philly may have found its missing link. Any truth to the rumor that Owens ripped McNabb after the Eagles' opening possession for not throwing the first pass of the season to him, instead opting for TE Chad Lewis?

K Jason Hanson, Lions: 2 of 2 FGs, 2 of 2 PATs -- Often overlooked in the euphoria of victory, the little things are what win ball games -- and end 24-game road losing streaks. Hanson accounted for eight points Sunday; the Lions' final margin of victory was six. Give it up for the li'l guys!

While the draw to hang out on his Hattiesburg, Miss., estate may be great, Brett Favre has resisted the urge to retire for another shot at Super Bowl glory. The Packers' pursuit of a fourth Super Bowl title (apropos with Favre wearing No. 4, don't you think?) begins Monday night at Carolina against the defending NFC champions.

The Panthers' secondary will be tested -- if their line doesn't get to Favre. Kris Jenkins, arguably the league's top inside player, Brentson Buckner and bookends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker compose a front four that is hard to equal.

But the Packers' strength lies within its O-line.

Mike Flanagan, Mike Wahle, Marco Rivera, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher helped pave the way for Ahman Green's franchise-record 1,883 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last season. They also protected Favre enough for him to lead the league with 32 TD passes.