Coming off their bye week, the Detroit Lions will be looking to end an obscure decades-long losing streak in Sunday night’s game against the Steelers.
On the final day of the 1997 regular season, Barry Sanders sent the Silverdome into a frenzy, reaching 2000 yards for the season. Reggie Brown had a career ending injury in that same game. In the fourth quarter, the Lions actually benefited from a terrible piece of officiating (pre-instant replay) on a critical interception. They squeaked out a 13-10 victory over the Jets to clinch a playoff spot.
Why do I bring all of this up now? Because it also happens to be the last time the Lions won a game that was broadcast on NBC.
The franchise is working to put an end to a wide variety of undesirable streaks in the near future. 51 years and no Super Bowl appearance. Going on 26 years with no playoff win. 24 years without a division championship. Two decades without winning a game on a certain TV channel though? What’s up with that?
20 years without winning on NBC? Really?
Following the 1997 season, NBC lost the rights to broadcast NFL games. Mind you, this is right in the prime of a incredible trio of NBC sports intro songs (NBA, NFL, Notre Dame football). I swear, my Fountain of Youth is hidden somewhere within the notes of those three themes, but I digress.
By the time NBC started showing NFL games again in 2006, the Lions had fallen on some hard times, even by their standards. For the first five years of the revamped NBC Sunday Night Football, the network didn’t bother choosing the Lions a single time for their weekly prime time game.
By 2011, the team was much improved. Matthew Stafford was coming into his own, Calvin Johnson was the best receiver in the league, and Ndamukong Suh was both a total beast and a lightning rod for controversy. The suits at the networks finally through Detroit a bone and handed them a few national broadcasts. In 2011, they had a Monday night game at home to go along with the Thanksgiving game. In Week 13, they also went out to New Orleans, finally putting them back on NBC.
It didn’t go very well that night. In fact, check out what I had to say back in my old blog for an idea of just how terrible that 2011 game was for the Motor City.
"” … how can you look someone in the face and admit to being a fan of the team who just showed the most egregious lack of discipline possible on a football field, on national television, for the second consecutive week?”"
And every time since then, when the Lions have been on the Peacock Network, it hasn’t gone much better.
On the next page, I’ll go into the brief yet unfortunate history of the Lions appearing on NBC.