This summer, we're looking closer at what went right and wrong during the 2012 Detroit Lions' season. In the coming weeks, we'll count down the top 10 plays which made a difference in the team's performance and record last season. Today, we push toward the end with an examination of number 3.
The Detroit Lions found plenty of ways to lose in 2012, but they got major creativity points for dropping the third game of the season to the Tennessee Titans in ridiculous fashion. Meltdowns occurred in so many ways, it's tough to think what the Lions' didn't learn from this one.
Entering the Music City for this contest, the Lions were a decent 1-1 after dropping a tough road game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. With the Titans breaking in a new quarterback and the Lions losing Matthew Stafford during the contest, there was no real favorite entering this game, which ended up setting forth the proper conditions for a wild showdown.
Naturally, the Lions would get on the board first via field goals, but their lead was only a slim 6-0 advantage. Tennessee quickly erased that when a punt return went 65 yards for a score. The special teams blunder was a sign of things to come in Detroit, and when Jared Cook took a pass from Jake Locker, the Titans led 17-6. Hanson, Detroit's only offensive hope, sliced the lead further, but Rob Bironas made the score 20-9 Tennessee at halftime.
Nobody could have foreseen the Lions' sudden offensive explosion, especially with a sputtering rushing attack, but Mikel Lehoure found the end zone for the third quarter's only score. The Lions were back in business, especially after holding the Titans off the board on defense with a variety of stands. In the fourth, Detroit got another three from Hanson, then got a score from Nate Burleson to put them ahead by seven.
With nearly seven minutes left on the clock and a suspect special teams unit, the comeback wasn't complete, however. Darius Reynaud took the ensuing kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, quickly tying the game. Then, the very next possession Nate Washington hauled in a 71 yard touchdown to put the Titans ahead once more. When the Lions got sloppy and fumbled, Alterraun Verner scooped and scored, seeming to put the game on ice.
Detroit managed the impossible comeback again, however. With Shaun Hill taking over for Stafford, Calvin Johnson scored a touchdown with 18 seconds on the clock. Then, the Lions recovered an onside kick, and Hill launched a Hail Mary pass toward the end zone with time expiring. Somehow, Titus Young came down with the ball, sending the game to overtime. In the extra period, though, the Lions' defense was pathetic, allowing Bironas to quickly send the Titans to a win.
For the first time of many in 2012, the Lions had been out-Lioned. After coming back and winning plenty of thrilling games, Detroit seemed to forget and remember that football is a 60 minute game. The special teams meltdowns were concerning, but so was the lazy attitude on defense which showed much of this game. The Lions scored, but without an impassioned defensive effort, it didn't matter. Heading into 2013, the Lions have to find a way to play angry and focused on defense the entire game. It's their big issue to watch on the field.
No matter what happens in the future, fans will never forget how the Lions managed to lose despite completing two comebacks and a Hail Mary pass. Even in today's NFL, that's a rare feat.
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