Detroit Lions: How one game defined the season

New York Giants

Josh Brown celebrates his game-winning field goal in overtime (photo credit: Rick Osentoski/AP)

There is officially no hope in the city of Detroit.

Despite failing to take control of their playoff dreams on national television, the Detroit Lions still had a chance at making the postseason heading into week 16.

Following a defeat to the New York Giants, a team the Lions should not have had any difficulties with, Detroit is officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Lions’ season can be single-handedly defined by the mental and physical mistakes that paved the way to Sunday’s loss.

From the opening kickoff until the final whistle, it was clear that Jim Schwartz had accepted that he will no longer have a head coaching job in the NFL; as he and the Lions showed absolutely no urge to win this game.

At the start of the second quarter, after driving the ball 63 yards down the field with relative ease, Schwartz elected to kick a field goal from the Giants’ 19-yard line instead of taking a chance on fourth down with just three yards to go. Now, this was clearly the safe call as teams should always take points when they can get them, however, Detroit didn’t need to play safe. The Lions needed to win this game to keep their hopes of winning the division alive. The decision to simply tie the game up 3-3 against an awful opponent was absolutely gutless.

The Lions’ next possession came to a screeching halt when Reggie Bush fumbled as they crossed into the Giants’ territory. Shortly after the turnover, New York took a 10-3 lead on an Eli Manning touchdown pass.

Detroit got the ball back just before the 2-minute warning of the first half. After their drive quickly stalled, the Giants were flagged for an offside penalty during a punt which resulted in a Lions’ first down at midfield.

Just two plays later, Joique Bell’s 25-yard catch and run was called back due to a holding penalty. Detroit was backed up to midfield instead of entering the red zone. After an incompletion, Matthew Stafford’s next pass was intercepted by Justin Tuck. The Giants’ defensive lineman was able to pluck the ball out of the air as the Lions’ quarterback attempted a side-arm pass instead of just moving into a better throwing lane.

New York used their last timeout after Manning was sacked at the 50-yard line. With just 27 seconds left and the clock running, Detroit’s Don Carey received a delay of game penalty which stopped the clock and moved the Giants five more yards down the field.

The Giants kicked a 52-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half to take a 13-3 lead.

As Stafford took a knee and the Lions headed into the locker room at halftime, the fans at Ford Field did not hesitate to voice their feeling of disappointment.

Surprisingly, the Lions dominated the first 25 minutes of the second half as they held the Giants to just eight yards of offense. With just over five minutes to go in the game, Detroit had a 20-13 lead and the ball in their hands.

Just as Lions’ fans thought they had survived a nightmare, Stafford overthrew Joseph Fauria and the Giants intercepted the deflected pass, which they ran back for a touchdown. With just 4:57 remaining in the game, it was now 20-20.

Both teams failed to move the ball enough to get into scoring range as regulation was winding down. The Giants eventually made it to midfield with just 28 seconds left, but Manning overthrew his target and the Lions intercepted the ball.

With the ball at their own 25-yard line, the Lions needed to gain about 40 yards to have a legitimate chance at a game-winning field goal. Despite having two timeouts, Schwartz revealed his spineless-mentality once again and decided to run out the final 23 seconds of regulation.

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New York started with the ball in overtime and quickly moved into Lions’ territory. Amazingly, just as they were in field goal range, they managed to fumble the ball and Detroit recovered.

The Lions now had another shot to close out the game. After a series of dropped passes and penalties, they choked away their opportunity once again.

At the start of the Giants’ next possession the television announcers made it clear to the audience that even if this game ended in a tie that there would still be postseason hope for the Lions. That’s right, after just two minutes of watching these teams in overtime, the announcers actually toyed with the idea that this could end up in a tie.

After a conversion on third down and another on fourth down, both coming against a weak four-man rush, the Giants were in position to put all postseason talk to an end.

As Josh Brown drilled a 45-yard field goal to win the game, New York became the sixth team this season to beat the Lions after trailing at some point during the fourth quarter.

Just like that, the pain and agony has finally come to an end.

This season has been more difficult to digest than the Lions’ 2008 season, the season in which they failed to win a single game. It would be unfair to say that this is simply the “same old Lions”, because it isn’t. This is one of the most talented teams in the NFL and they failed to win their division, a division in which they were the only team to have the same starting quarterback each week.

Changes need to be made immediately, starting with the firing of Jim Schwartz and the majority of the coaching staff. If the front office fails to change this dreadful organizational culture, the Lions will continue to be the biggest joke in the NFL; an even bigger joke than the Dallas Cowboys.

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  • Andrew

    I couldnt put it better myself. You play to win the game!! You dont play just not to lose… He has had very questionable coaching decisions where i said its so obvious that my 10 year old cousin was saying how terrible a coach he is… We have the freaking talent and we deserve more heart from our team and the coaches. Too many turnovers and not discipline.. And stafford should stop throwing that bullshit side arm throw.. Its freaking annoying..lions fan for life but they are making it hard for me..

  • Alex Eisen

    I was at the game booing along with everybody else. Play to win, 2 timeout and 23 seconds for 45-50 years. Come on, take a chance. As soon as Stafford took a knee people started heading for the exits, I’m not kidding. The faith was already gone. If Schwartz and the entire coach staff isn’t replaced I will be disappointed. For being the fan appreciate game they sure didn’t play like it.

  • Rob White

    I thought when they went up 20-13 that maybe, just maybe, they would win the game. Then Stafford fired a 100 mph pass to Fauria, that had no chance of being caught, except, of course, by Will Hill – for a pick six.
    Right then, I knew they were going to lose. It’s frustrating to watch. They are too talented to fall apart the way they have this season. Not to mention that they are wasting the prime years of Calvin Johnson’s career the same way they wasted Barry Sanders prime.

  • Al

    Again we say “wait till next year” !:(