There was no lack of drama in this game.
The Titans’ 44-41 overtime victory over the Detroit Lions will certainly be remembered for late-game heroics and a plethora of late momentum changes.
I had already written the headline and first paragraph of this article when Detroit found themselves down 41-27 with barely over a minute on the clock.
With Matthew Stafford on the sideline with a strained leg muscle, the game was over. Simple as that.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill entered the game, and led the Lions down the field, hooking up with Calvin Johnson for a three-yard score with 18 seconds left.
All the Lions needed to do was recover an onside kick and catch a Hail Mary and the game would go to overtime.
And they did.
Incredibly, Jason Hanson delivered a perfect onside kick and Hill did his best Doug Flutie, hitting Titus Young for the game-tying touchdown as time expired.
Unfortunately for Hill, it may be his failed quarterback sneak that Lions fans remember most.
After Tennessee won the toss and eventually kicked a field goal (under the new overtime rules, a team that holds their opponent to a FG on their first possession gets a chance to score), Detroit took the ball down inside Tennessee’s 10-yard-line. Then, on fourth-and-inches, Hill was stuffed on a QB sneak that never had a chance. It appeared that center Dominic Raiola snapped the ball before Hill and the rest of the line was ready for it.
Come to find out, the ball was never supposed to be snapped at all.
After the game, Head Coach Jim Schwartz told the media that the sneak play was never supposed to be run, the plan was to line up and try to draw the Titans offside.
Despite making a miraculous comeback bid, Detroit did all the wrong things in this game. They were penalized a ton, allowed a plaethora of big plays, and couldn’t cover
Stafford left the game with a strained leg muscle
I wrote in my preview for this game that the Lions could lose only if they gave up big plays. Easy enough, considering this Tennessee Titans team had only made one play of over 50 yards so far this season. That was until they gashed the Lions for five plays of 50+ yards in this game.
Detroit’s special teams unit gave up scores of 105 and 65 yards, with the longer one being a kickoff return and the shorter being a beautifully designed punt return throwback that had Wycheck to Dyson written all over it.
The defense did their part as well, getting burned on touchdown passes of 61 and 71 yards and allowed 437 yards to a team that had averaged less than 250 yards per game.
Even the offense got in on the action, as Brandon Pettigrew coughed up the ball to Alterraun Verner, who then took it 72 yards to the house.
Detroit not only gave up way too many big plays, but also got killed by penalties. Detroit took 10 penalties for 91 yards, including a number of boneheaded encroachment penalties that turned third-and-long into very manageable situations. Twice this happened, and the Titans were able to convert.
With so much to talk about in this game, I’ll try to hit everything quickly:
Mikel Leshoure looked great, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown to go with 34 yards receiving.
Shaun Hill is the best backup quarterback in the league.
The replacement refs continued their debacle, their biggest blunder coming in overtime. On a Tennessee pass play, Steven Tulloch was (correctly) flagged for hitting the receiver helmet-to-helmet. The catch was reviewed, and incorrectly overturned. Then, the referees awarded Tennessee 27 yards instead of just the 15 it should have been. Tennessee went on to kick the game-winning field goal.
Why did Martin Mayhew draft Ryan Broyles? More to come on this topic.
This game could have been about what the Lions got done, but instead it became about what they didn’t.
They couldn’t slow the Tennessee offense, they couldn’t prevent big plays, and in the end, they couldn’t even get the play call right. Raiola snapping the ball when it shouldn’t have been snapped is an inexcusable mental lapse, and typifies this game for Detroit.
Detroit now has a very long road ahead of them, starting next week at home against Minnesota.
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