Every Monday during the summer, positive or negative, we’re counting down the top 10 turning points from the season before.
While the Detroit Lions piled up the points, touchdowns and yards in 2013, they often collapsed in the biggest moments. In no game was that more abundantly clear than a late season loss to the New York Giants.
With plenty to play for at home including a possible playoff birth, the Lions, most assumed, were a prohibitive favorite again taking on the Giants, who were in a season more disastrous than Detroit.
Ah, but these are the Lions, of course, who make habits of not only looking a gift horse in the mouth, but socking it in the face until turns around and limps home. New York, with a disoriented offense and a defense that was average were the proverbial gift horse just begging the Lions to win.
Considering Detroit didn’t move the ball in the first half and was staring a 13-3 deficit in the face, a lack of confidence quickly began to set in. Even though they were powered by Joique Bell, who was piling up the yardage on the ground, the Lions couldn’t pass the football a lick. Still, Bell scored a touchdown in the second half, as did Theo Riddick, which managed to push the Lions into the lead temporarily by a score of 20-13 when combined with an end zone safety and a two point conversion.
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However, inconsistency dogged Detroit’s offense in the second half again, as the Lions had too many three and outs. Worse, Matthew Stafford would once again make the major mistake with the game on the line. His interception that was returned for a touchdown by Will Hill in the fourth quarter inexplicably tied the game late. After Stafford and company couldn’t lead the winning drive, the game went to overtime, where Josh Brown’s third long field goal of the day eliminated the Lions. It was a meltdown on par with a December loss to the Chicago Bears in 2000.
The worst possible part? Detroit’s vaunted passing attack, which had its moments of glory last season, failed to show up when it was needed most. The Lions finished with only 222 yards through the air, which was a miserable number. New York did finish the season safely in the top 10 in passing yards allowed, but Detroit had already managed to burn other teams within that group before.
Detroit’s vaunted passing attack, which had its moments of glory last season, failed to show up when it was needed most.
A choke happened, driven by a lack of diversity in play calling. Bell, a running back, was Detroit’s leading receiver with 63 yards. Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Joseph Fauria were no-shows, collecting only 98 total yards between them. Much of that blame falls on the quarterback, but plenty more on the staff. That mess in execution was the final indignity of the Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan era, which would come to an end after one more defeat.
If the Lions are to improve in 2014 and win more of the games they should, they’ll have to avoid usual performances like this, especially late in the game out of an offense generally considered to be one of the league’s elite.