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Lions go 4-0 in preseason but hope season goes better than 2008

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Running back Jerome Harrison isn't making any predictions about if he did enough in the final preseason game to win a job with the Detroit Lions.

And Lions coach Jim Schwartz isn't about to start celebrating over how his team capped a perfect preseason with a 16-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.

"You don't get any points for that," Schwartz said. "Why don't we just wait and see once we get to the regular season before we start giving them too many pats on the back and start puffing our chests up at all."

It's a good reminder, given the last time the Lions went 4-0 at this time of year. It was 2008, and they proceeded to become the NFL's first team to lose all 16 regular-season games.

Harrison had the most notable performance in a final bid to secure a roster spot once final cuts are made by Saturday. The six-year NFL veteran ran for 72 yards and set up the Lions' two first-half scoring drives.

Harrison's 47-yard run led to Maurice Stovall's 16-yard touchdown catch from Shaun Hill. Harrison's 17-yard run off right tackle set up Jason Hanson's 44-yard field goal that put the Lions up 10-0 with 3:15 left in the half.

Signed on Aug. 9 after second-round draft pick Mikel Leshoure tore his left Achilles tendon, Harrison is competing with Aaron Brown to make the roster behind Jahvid Best and Maurice Morris, who sat out with a hand injury. He's not sure if it was enough.

"In this business, you shouldn't feel no way because you never know what's going to happen," Harrison said. "I just go out there and play hard and try to put myself in a good situation. ... Whatever happens is going to happen."

Hanson added 46- and 35-yard field goals in the second half.

The Bills (1-3) produced mostly a dud in a game in which their starters played just two series.

With his team trailing 16-0, Bruce Hall scored on a 1-yard plunge with 4:05 left, but Buffalo failed on a two-point conversion when Craig Davis bobbled Levi Brown's pass in the end zone.

Bills coach Chan Gailey was unhappy with his offense, which produced 43 yards in the first half, and 217 overall. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went 2-of-5 passing for minus 1-yard. Two of the incompletions were drops -- one by Marcus Easley, who's attempting to beat out Donald Jones for the No. 2 spot.

"Yes, it was a mess to be honest with you," Gailey said. He was particularly unhappy with backup Tyler Thigpen, who finished 12-of-21 passing for 92 yards and was sacked five times.

On the bright side, linebacker Shawne Merriman had three tackles for Buffalo. It was Merriman's first game since missing the past two with a groin injury, and after the player once dubbed "Lights Out" missed most of last season with nagging injuries to his calf and Achilles.

"One of the main things I wanted to get accomplished was to get ready for the games, get ready for the process," Merriman said, already looking ahead to Buffalo's Sept. 11 season opener. "It felt good. I'm glad I got the chance to get out there and play a little bit just to get into the routine of getting ready again. Now, the next time I line up it'll be the real thing."

Merriman burst into the backfield to pull down Best from behind for a 1-yard loss on the Lions' first series. On the next series, Merriman ran down Brown from behind to trip him up and limit him to a 10-yard gain on third-and-12.

The new-look Lions, who open at Tampa Bay on Sept. 11, are seeking to turn around the woeful fortunes of a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in 11 years -- tied with Buffalo as the NFL's longest current drought.

Detroit is coming off a 6-10 finish, in which it won its final four games.

Schwartz didn't take any chances, pulling his starters after each played one series. Matthew Stafford opened the game by completing a 39-yard pass up the right sideline to Calvin Johnson, before the drive stalled at the Bills' 39.

Coming off right shoulder surgery, Stafford, the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick, closed a solid preseason in which he went 25-of-33 passing for 395 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

Schwartz was cautious in touting Stafford, noting his quarterback had a solid preseason last year before hurting his shoulder in Week 3.

"He's got great command, but he was in that same position last year," Schwartz said. "We have to prove it in the 16 games."

Notes: Schwartz hasn't ruled out having Lions CB Alphonso Smith open the season on the physically unable to play list after missing the preseason with a foot injury. ... The Lions, coming off a 34-10 victory over the New England Patriots, couldn't score 30 points for a fourth consecutive game. Detroit has gone unbeaten six times in the preseason. ... The Bills paid tribute to longtime Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski, who died of a heart attack Monday. The Bills kept what would have been Kowalski's seat open in the press box, with his press pass left sitting on a game notes folder. A moment of silence also was held in the press box following the national anthem.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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