Jon Kitna threw two touchdown passes and the Detroit Lions scored twice on defense, leading to a 44-7 rout over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
The Lions (6-2) have established themselves as a legitimate contender in the NFC and perhaps the surprise team in the entire league at the midway point of their season. They already have twice as many wins as last year and have matched the most victories in any season under team president Matt Millen.
Detroit, which has won three straight, more than doubled its largest margin of victory since Millen took over in 2001.
In the Super Bowl era, 76 percent of the 146 teams that started 6-2 made the playoffs.
Denver (3-5) has its worst record since its last losing season in 1999, and the banged-up team took more hits when quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Travis Henry were sidelined with injuries.
Cutler left the game with a lower leg injury in the second quarter and was replaced by Patrick Ramsey. Henry appeared to hurt his left leg in the fourth period, and Selvin Young finished the game in the backfield.
Denver scored with 2 1/2 minutes left to avoid being shut out for the first time since 1992, but was handed its most-lopsided loss in nearly two decades.
The Broncos were about to add another meaningless score in the final seconds, but receiver Brian Clark fumbled into the end zone.
The Lions started slowly, scoring only once in the first quarter on Jason Hanson's first of three field goals. They led 16-0 at halftime.
It became a blowout in the third period when defensive end Dewayne White picked up Ramsey's fumble and returned it for a TD and Shaun McDonald was untouched on a 49-yard reception.
Adding to the laugher, Shaun Rogers intercepted a screen pass and the 340-pound defensive tackle rumbled 66 yards, scoring after stiff-arming Young to make it 37-0 in the fourth quarter.
Detroit is the only team in the NFC undefeated at home, starting 4-0 for the first time since moving back downtown in 2002.
Kitna was 16-of-31 for 252 yards, two scores and no interceptions. Kevin Jones ran for 71 yards and four receivers caught at least three passes.
Ramsey completed 29-of-46 passes for 262 yards with a TD pass to Brandon Stokley, an interception and a fumble. Brandon Marshall caught nine passes for 96 yards, but dropped three passes on one drive alone. Henry had just 31 yards on nine carries and Young was held to 12 yards rushing on six attempts.
The Broncos, set back by injuries all season on both sides of the ball, had free safety John Lynch inactive because of a pinched nerve in his neck.
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