Every week during the summer, positive or negative, we’re counting down the top 10 turning points from the season before.
When the Detroit Lions’ 2013 schedule was released, a definite bit of excitement swriled around a game in the middle of December against the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.
That spring and summer excitement drew to a winter fever pitch in Detroit when the 7-6 Lions were still in contention for the playoffs, while the 7-6 Ravens were looking like a shell of their former elite self despite being in the playoff chase as well.
Still, no matter, the Lions’ season was heading the wrong way quick after three losses in four games. If there was ever a night to end run that and sprout some new late-season momentum behind a revved up crowd, this was it.
Except nobody told Matthew Stafford.
Early and often, Stafford set the tone by misfiring, leading the offense into a state of utter confusion much of the night. His three interceptions each came at inopportune times, and helped the Ravens, despite obvious signs of offensive stagnation, hang around with field goals.
Somehow, in the fourth quarter, the Lions managed to complete their comeback, marching down the field and getting a touchdown from Joseph Fauria to make the score 16-15. The score happened with too much time on the clock, though. Behind the confident Joe Flacco, the Ravens cobbled together a drive and set up Justin Tucker for a 61 yard field goal. Of course, the difficult distance not withstanding, Tucker calmly nailed the kick.
Stafford then made the most frustrating play of the night, firing his third interception of the game to Matt Elam as he attempted to lead the comeback. Detroit lost 18-16. It was the apex of frustration for weary Lions’ fans, who had seen enough of the messiness all season long from their signal caller, but would end up seeing even more in the weeks ahead.
Ironically, the loss, which came at the hands of an offense and quarterback that Jim Caldwell helped groom to success, may have helped the Lions zero in on their new boss weeks later. Flacco’s “Joe Cool” performance, while it wasn’t award winning by any stretch, was better than Stafford’s in the clutch. His development under Caldwell had netted him a Super Bowl, as well as playoff and big game success.
Those are the same elements the Lions will be chasing with Caldwell at the helm in 2014, hoping he can instill the same type of discipline in Stafford. This December game is an inspiration for Detroit’s future. It’s not always about the best statistics from a team or qarterback, but having what it takes to limit mistakes and win in the end.
The only way the Lions will find the ability to do that is if Stafford is able to clean up the critical mistakes in critical games.