Detroit Lions’ biggest play of the year wasn’t even a play!
If the Detroit Lions miss the playoffs this year it’s could be due in large part to a big play that wasn’t back in Week Three.
As the NFL regular season winds down to its last two weeks of play, the playoff picture in both conferences is starting to come into clear focus. In the AFC, it’s the Patriots, the Steelers, and the Jaguars (!), and then a few other teams that will be around an extra week or two.
In the NFC, the picture is a little cloudier. Only the Vikings and Eagles have clinched spots. The Rams are just about as sure a lock to get in as there can be, so you can give them a ticket to the dance, too. That leaves three spots for a big wad of teams: the Saints, the Panthers, the Falcons, the Seahawks, the Cowboys… and the Detroit Lions.
I list the Lions last because… well, because I have been here before. We need to win out—something that became far more likely when the Packers shelved Aaron Rodgers for the season earlier this week, meaning the Lions get an under-manned Packers team at home to close out the season. But not only do the Lions need to win both of their remaining games, we need some help to get in.
The situation in the NFC South is the problem for Detroit. Two teams are currently 10-4, each with a chance to win their division under perfect circumstances. The Falcons are 9-5, and currently hold the six seed in the NFC. Add to that fact that each of the three has beaten the Lions head-to-head, and you can clearly see the outcome here: the Lions are going to get left out of the playoffs.
This would be an easier pill to swallow if those games had all been routs. True, the Saints blasted the Lions early, then let them back in the game, but the outcome of that contest was never really in question. The Panthers game was far closer from start to finish, but the Lions again doomed themselves by being late the start of the game.
No, the game the that makes the Lions miss the playoffs is the Atlanta game.
I won’t re-hash the entire scenario, because if you’re a Lions fan, you’ve seen it a thousand times over: the NFL stepped in and seemed to make up a new way for the Lions to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This time, it was because of an arbitrary ten-second run off. Never mind that numerous other teams successfully got plays off with less than ten seconds remaining on the clock—one so far as to sprint the entire kicking unit onto the field and make a game winner.
I know that Lions fans—and I am sure that the players themselves—realize the ramifications of that game—nay, that individual “play”—it changes the entire playoff picture. As mentioned, the Falcons are the 6th seed, holding on to a Wildcard spot, and will play extra football this year if things hold out the way they have thus far.
Let’s just say that the Lions get one more PLAY—not “play,” mind you—but an actual play, where the players get to decide what happens—this time from the 1-inch line.
If the Lions get that one play back and score a touchdown, they win the game. Now it’s the Lions with a 9-5 record, and the tie-breaker over the Falcons, whose record is suddenly flipped to 8-6.
Next: How the Detroit Lions can fix their defense
Now the Lions have a tiny bit of wiggle room, not Atlanta. Now, our team has to be perfect for two more weeks. Throw in that head coach Jim Caldwell’s job might be on the line, and you see that maybe—just maybe—the 10-second runoff was the biggest “play” of the year.