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 top spot with an examination of number 2.
Every year, the best worst game on the Detroit Lions' schedule comes on Thanksgiving Day. Given the team hasn't won since 2003 on America's big fall holiday, there's been a myriad of meltdowns lately, arguably the worst, most jarring coming last year against the Houston Texans.
With the bottom falling out of their season, the Lions themselves had little to play for other than pride in 2012's edition of the game. On Thanksgiving, though, pride isn't usually hard to find for those wearing Honolulu Blue. The Thanksgiving game is Detroit's unofficial national holiday, and no matter the opponent, the Lions are routinely a game foe on their turf.
Even though they were littered with plenty of talent in the midst of a fantastic season, Houston looked intimidated early by Detroit's passionate crowd and the Lions struck first with Mikel Leshoure bursting through into the end zone, capping off a spectacular opening drive. The Texans' next few drives were rough, but the Lions didn't manage to add to their lead. Early in the second quarter, Arian Foster quickly evened the score, but the Lions didn't wait long for a response. Matthew Stafford impressively threaded the needle to the back of the end zone, hitting new addition Mike Thomas for the 14-7 lead.
Quickly again, despite the noise and the hunger of the Lions, the Texans answered back, courtesy of big gains by Andre Johnson. Matt Schaub found Owen Daniels to tie the game. The momentum shifted again when Detroit got the ball, however, and Calvin Johnson pulled down an impressive score in the corner of the end zone to give the Lions a 21-14 lead at halftime.
Detroit opened the second half with an impressive defensive stand and Jason Hanson extended the lead to 10 with a field goal. On the very next series, the critical play of the game occurred. Justin Forsett ran up the middle and appeared to be downed, but he continued to run into the end zone anyway. The play was ruled a score to the dismay of the Detroit fans and Jim Schwartz, who emotionally threw a challenge flag even though the play was not reviewable. The Texans tied the game on the next series, and the Lions looked rattled by the circumstance.
Thy pushed through, though, when Joique Bell burst into the end zone for a score and the 31-24 lead. It stood for a while in the fourth quarter until Houston went on a long drive and Foster punched home his second score of the day, tying the game. When each team failed to mount a last second charge, the back and forth affair went to overtime.
After winning the toss, Detroit was looking good when Stafford hit Ryan Broyles for 40 yards, but Brandon Pettigrew fumbled the very next series and all looked lost. Instead, after a Texans drive fizzled a bit on the edge of field goal range, Shayne Graham missed a 51 yarder to the right, stunningly giving the Lions another chance. Again, turnovers played a role, as Stafford was intercepted and the Texans looked to win. Chris Houston, though, picked off Schaub giving the Lions yet another shot. This one, they nearly cashed in. Hanson, though, barely pushed his 47 yard field goal into the left upright. It was a stunning miss, and Graham was good from 32 yards, allowing the Texans to get out of town.
What had gone wrong in this game? Everything. Special teams, defense, coaching and offense were all equally to blame for Detroit's Thanksgiving meltdown. Five times the Lions had a lead and all five it was erased. Three times in overtime, the Lions had a shot to win and misfortune struck down all three. Despite this, the Lions still should have won the game. Simply put, Detroit must find a way to win games where everything goes wrong in 2013. Surviving these types of affairs will be crucial to seeing the team get back into the playoff hunt.
In addition, the name of the game in 2013 will be preventing an extended Thanksgiving Day losing streak ripe with futility from going over 10 years.
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