The 5 Biggest Kicks of Jason Hanson's Career
They say that all good things must come to an end, and while the writing was on the wall, Thursday was still a very bittersweet day for fans of the Detroit Lions.
As Dave Birkett of USA Today reports, kicker Jason Hanson, who has played more games for the Lions than any player has for any team in the history of the NFL, announced his retirement after he and the Lions failed to come to an agreement on a contract for 2013.
Hanson leaves the game as the NFL's third-leading scorer of all time, having booted 495 field goals over 21 seasons, including an NFL-record 52 from 50 yards or longer.
The 42-year-old also knocked through 17 game-winners over his two decades with the Lions, and here's a look at a handful of the biggest ones.
November 3, 2002: Detroit Lions 9, Dallas Cowboys 7
When an NFL game features a duel of quarterbacks between Chad Hutchinson and Joey Harrington, and the game's only touchdown is scored by the immortal Troy Hambrick, then you know you have a barnburner on your hands.
Such was the case during a Week 9 matchup between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys in 2002.
Harrington was positively awful for the Lions that day, completing only 14 of 33 passes and throwing a pair of interceptions.
However, Harrington was at least able to get the Lions into field-goal range three times that day at Ford Field, and Hanson was good from 43 yards out to give the Lions their third win of the season.
It would be their last that year.
November 9, 2003: Detroit Lions 12, Chicago Bears 10
About one year later, the opponent was different, but the circumstances of the Week 10 tilt between the Lions and Chicago Bears was eerily similar.
Once again, both teams entered the game with losing records, with Chris Chandler providing the foil for Harrington that Sunday afternoon.
Once again, the Lions were held out of the end zone, but Jason Hanson wasn't going to let even the might and power of Joey Harrington's awfulness stop the Lions that day.
Hanson kicked four field goals that day, each one longer than the one before it, before his 48-yarder gave Detroit the win.
October 20, 2002: Detroit Lions 23, Chicago Bears 20
As we've already established, the 2002 season was not kind to the Detroit Lions, who finished that year 3-13.
It's not hard to see why. Matt Millen was still in the early days of his reign of terror in Detroit. Harrington was under center.
In an October win over the Chicago Bears, running back James Stewart scored both of the team's touchdowns. Aveion Cason was the team's leading receiver.
It was most definitely not a wonderful life.
However, even the evil powers of Matt Millen himself were not enough to stop Hanson from propelling the Lions to a win that day, with his 24-yarder tying the game in the fourth quarter and his 48-yarder sealing the deal in overtime.
November 12, 2000: Detroit Lions 13, Atlanta Falcons 10
For all of his time in the NFL, Jason Hanson didn't get a whole lot of chances to win games that really mattered. As for most of Hanson's time in Motown, the Lions struggled mightily as a franchise.
However, there were exceptions. This Week 11 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons was one of them, as the Lions entered the game at 5-4 and clinging to hopes of making a second straight trip to the postseason.
Quarterback Charlie Batch struggled that day against a terrible Atlanta team, but luckily, the Lions had two things on their side.
The first was Falcons quarterback Danny Kanell, whose 14-for-34 day passing actually made Batch look good by comparison.
The second was Hanson, who tied the game with a fourth-quarter chip shot before winning it for the Lions from 44 yards out.
October 14, 2012: Detroit Lions 26, Philadelphia Eagles 23
In 2011, the Detroit Lions were the toast of the town, winning 10 games and making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
That ratcheted up expectations for 2012, but by Week 6, fans were already uneasy, as the Lions sat at 1-3 and were on the verge of dropping their matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Both Michael Vick of the Eagles and Matthew Stafford of the Lions threw for 311 yards that day, but it was Stafford's last-minute drive that set Hanson up to deadlock the game at 23 from 19 yards out.
Stafford then gave the Lions a chance for the win in overtime, and Hanson converted, booting a 45-yard game-winner outdoors that showed there was still a little juice left in the old leg.