NFL-high 20 takeaways lifting Lions to surprising 5-2 record

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Rod Marinelli spread praise to each unit Monday, explaining why the Detroit Lions beat Chicago and improved to 5-2 overall and an NFC-best 3-0 in their division.

» Running back Kevin Jones has provided a boost for the offense.

» Each part of the defense is contributing.

» Placekicker Jason Hanson and the rest of the special teams have been solid.

Where do takeaways rank on the list of factors?

"No. 1," Marinelli said. "I'd say right there with how hard we're playing, and playing one snap at a time.

"If you don't play one snap at a time and you go in the tank on these long drives, the turnovers will never come. You just keep playing and good things will happen for you. Somebody is going to self-destruct."

Coming off strong showings, Bears quarterback Brian Griese threw four interceptions -- three in the end zone -- giving Detroit a 16-7 win in the Windy City.

The Lions are one of the NFL's surprise teams nearing the midway point of the season in large part because they lead the league with 20 takeaways, 13 interceptions and 69 points off turnovers.

Detroit already has two more wins and one more interception than it had all of last season.

The defense was expected to take a hit when it dealt cornerback Dre' Bly and defensive end James Hall in the offseason and didn't re-sign safety Terrence Holt. But players such as Keith Smith, Dewayne White and rookie Gerald Alexander have easily filled the voids.

Smith has a team-high three interceptions after picking off only one pass over his first three years in the league.

"I'm just getting an opportunity, that's the biggest thing," he said. "I've been here since 2004 and I've been playing behind Fernando Bryant and Dre' Bly, both great players, but when my time was called I was ready."

Detroit's defensive backs were challenged by Marinelli in the middle of last week, and they responded.

"Coach put the hat on the secondary for this game and we had to prove we could help win a game," Smith said. "Each week, he picks out a group and says, `You guys are going to wear the hat,' to see if they can show up and be the difference in the game.

"Everybody is making plays. Everybody felt like Dre' was the playmaker in the secondary."

Marinelli's methods are not just reaching young and hungry players, but older ones like Kenoy Kennedy who is coming off one of his best games in three seasons with the Lions.

The former Bronco has been known for being a hard-hitting safety in his eight seasons. But in the win at Chicago, he sprinted across the end zone and leaped into the air to make one of Detroit's four interceptions.

"He made a heck of a play. He attacked," Marinelli said. "It's just doing these same things over and over. The goal of this system is to get guys who really play fast, aggressive and violent."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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