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Norcross grad, Lions lineman revels in victory

Jeff Backus wasn't the Detroit Lions lineman that the television cameras caught shedding a few tears of choice. That was longtime teammate Dominic Raiola.

But Backus was nearly as overcome with emotion to have the long ordeal finally over.

"You have no idea what a relief this is," the former Norcross standout told Detroit reporters on Sunday.

The Lions had won a football game for the first time since 2007. The NFL record of 26 consecutive losses set by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1970s is safe.

Detroit held on for a 19-14 victory over the visiting Washington Redskins, snapping a 19-game losing streak.

It was a memorable moment for rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford from Georgia and second-year wide receiver Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech. But they hadn't gone through all the misery that Backus and Raiola have experienced with the Lions.

In eight seasons, tackle Backus and center Raiola have lost 99 games.

No wonder the TV cameras focused on them. No wonder they lingered on the field the longest and savored the moment the most.

First-year coach Jim Schwartz told his players to celebrate with the crowd and they did just that. Backus was the last to leave, walking around Ford Field slapping hands with fans.

An All-American at Michigan after graduating from Norcross, Backus has started every game in his NFL career after being drafted in the first round by the Lions. But there hasn't been a lot to celebrate.

"It's a monkey off everybody's back," Backus said of breaking the losing streak. "It's not good for the team. It's not good for the city for us to continue losing."

With the troubles of the auto industry, good news in Detroit has been limited lately.

"This allows us to move forward," Backus said.

Stafford, who had thrown five interceptions in his first two games, was mistake-free against the Redskins. He completed 21 of 36 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. Five of his throws were caught by Johnson.

The long-coming victory was for reeling Detroit as much as for its beleaguered team. That's why Schwartz had his players go back out to celebrate with the fans.

"As much as we've gone through as a team and an organization, the city and fans have been going through it was us," Backus said. "Coach just wanted to remind us that get us to go out there and just show how much we appreciate the fans that have been sticking with us and showing up every week."

The crowd was actually the smallest in about 20 years for a Lions game, with Ford Field barely half full. But that didn't matter.

"This celebration shouldn't have been confined to the locker room," Schwartz said. "This celebration should have been shared."

SideBar: Cook still seeks first NFL reception

Rookie tight end Jared Cook, who led Tennessee in receiving during the exhibitions, still doesn't have a regular-season catch and the Titans don't have a victory.

Picked to challenge Indianapolis for first place in the AFC South, visiting Tennesee fell to 0-3 with a 24-17 lost to the unbeaten New York Jets on Sunday.

The former North Gwinnett and South Carolina standout has played in the past two games after sitting out Tennessee's opening loss at Pittsburgh because of a sprained ankle. He has had a few balls thrown his way, but none have connected.

Tennessee and New York wore throwback uniforms to the AFL on Sunday, meaning the Jets were the New York Titans and the Titans were the Houston Oilers.

- Guy Curtright