Joey Harrington sent a message to the Detroit Lions on Thursday afternoon, firing three touchdown passes in leading the Miami Dolphins to a 27-10 victory over his former team before a crowd of 61,562 at Ford Field.
The American Thanksgiving matinee marked Harrington's much-anticipated return to Detroit, where he spent four NFL seasons but failed to meet the expectations of being drafted third overall by the Lions in 2002.
"When I came back on that field, I remembered what happened the last four years," said Harrington, who completed 19 of his 29 pass attempts for 213 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
"It felt good to walk off a winner. I'm proud of who I am and what I do."
Asked what he thought of the constant jeers directed at Harrington by Detroit fans, Dolphins head coach Nick Saban responded: "It's a shame people cannot appreciate what he tried to do for this organization. To be honest for you, I don't have a lot of respect for what they did."
Marty Booker had seven receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns for the Dolphins (5-6), winners of four consecutive games.
Running back Sammy Morris rushed 12 times for 91 yards, the bulk of it after Ronnie Brown suffered an injury to his left hand early in the second half and did not return.
Lions quarterback Jon Kitna didn't fare well, going 22-of-40 for 252 yards and a touchdown with an interception and a fumble.
Worse still, he was sacked eight times and limited by an anemic running attack that generated only 21 yards.
"They just continued to get pressure on the quarterback and we could not run the football," Kitna said. "And that is about as simple as you can put it."
Roy Williams was the lone bright spot offensively, snaring six passes for 126 yards for the Lions (2-9), who lost their third straight week.
"I watched the heads of the players on the other team â¦ and it was tough to keep my emotions in check," Harrington said. "I was thinking, 'I remember being on that sideline, I remember what that felt like.'
"More than anything, there are guys over there that deserve to win. And I really hope they get this turned around."
Detroit is an NFL-worst 23-68 since Lions president and general manager Matt Millen assumed control of football operations in 2001, a fact not lost on the hometown fans who chanted "Fire Millen!" throughout.
"Matt's not down here playing football, we are," Lions linebacker Boss Bailey bristled. "If they want to chant 'Fire Millen,' they should be chanting to fire the whole damn team.
"All Matt does is bring in players and, every year, we talk about how much talent we have, so it should be on us. This is not about Matt."
Detroit actually led 10-0 with 6:23 left in the first quarter, only to watch Miami respond with 27 unanswered points.
Harrington capped a seven-play, 76-yard drive with an eight-yard TD strike to Booker at the 12:23 mark.
After Williams picked off Kitna and returned it to the nine-yard line, Harrington and tight end Randy McMichael hooked up for a three-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead at the half.
Olindo Mare increased Miami's lead on the opening drive of the second half, kicking a 42-yard field goal to make it 17-10.
Harrington later spied Booker streaking across the field and he turned it upfield for a 19-yard TD pass that put the Dolphins ahead 24-10 with 4:17 left in the third quarter.
Mare's 28-yard field goal with 11:44 remaining completed the scoring.