Detroit Lions throwback: Reviewing the 1980 season
Story of the Season (cont.)
To dust you shall return
In what head coach Monte Clark would describe as the bitterest loss he could ever remember, the Lions let a 17-3 fourth quarter lead slip away on Thanksgiving against Chicago.
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A Bears touchdown on the final play of regulation set up the first ever overtime game at the Pontiac Silverdome. It lasted only one play, as Dave Williams of the Bears took back kickoff return 95 yards for a walk-off touchdown.
The next week was deja vu against the Cardinals, as a 23-14 lead turned into a 24-23 defeat over the final ten minutes of the game. Allowing a 57 yard punt return late in the fourth quarter was the crucial miscue. Mustering up wins at the Silverdome in each of the final two games, the Lions finished with a winning record at 9-7, but it wasn’t enough to salvage their lofty playoff ambitions.
An asymmetrical conference schedule gave the NFC Central title to the Vikings via the conference record tiebreaker. At 9-5, even though Detroit won more conference games, Minnesota (8-4, with two fewer NFC matchups) was awarded the tiebreaker based on percentage points.
It would take another three years before the Lions reached the postseason again, and “Another One Bites the Dust” lives on in Motown as an embarrassing lesson on the potential downside of declaring yourselves champions only four games into the season.
Sources: Detroit Free Press archives, Sept. to Dec. 1980, via www.newspapers.com