Someday, Detroit Lions fans will look back at the 2013 season with a tragic longing. Oh, what could have been!
The disappointing 7-9 finish hangs a cloud over what was one of the more memorable seasons in Detroit Lions history. There were some grand triumphs, moments which led even the most hardened fans to maybe believe this could be the year...
...and then the bottom dropped out. The promising 6-3 start caved in to a 7-9 finish. As high as the winning winds lifted Detroit, it made the harsh crash back to earth all the more devastating.
When folks recall this eventful season, certain memories will stand out. Here are eight of the most memorable moments from 2013.
If there was any question that the 2013 Detroit Lions would be a lightning rod, Ndamukong Suh quickly answered it.
In the opener against Minnesota, Suh demonstrated that the lack of discipline that had permeated the prior seasons was back in full force. His illegal block on DeAndre Levy's interception return dredged the recurring storyline to the forefront.
Here is a link to a longer video of the full play on NFL.com
This drew quite the consternation. It led to an oft-animated argument (read the comments) about Suh being a dirty player. The penalty also led to recycling the national narrative about both the defensive tackle and his head coach, Jim Schwartz, lacking discipline.
Suh fought against his reputation for the rest of the season, enduring taunts from opposing fans as well as efforts by other teams to draw more illegal acts.
This play, more than any other in 2013, embodied the criticism of Schwartz that he could not control his team's discipline on or off the field.
Running back Reggie Bush was brought in as a free agent to provide some sizzle to the Detroit offense. In the Week 4 meeting with the Chicago Bears, Bush delivered.
The Lions were already emphatically winning late in the second quarter, but that didn't stop Bush from pulling off a run that reminded many a Lions fan of Barry Sanders.
Here's a longer video of the fantastic run, thanks to the Lions' official website.
Bush's swashbuckling burst put the Lions ahead 30-10 with two minutes and 45 seconds left in the first half. The Lions would stretch the lead to 40-16 in the fourth quarter before the Bears scored a couple of garbage-time touchdowns to make the final a misleading 40-32 count.
Detroit fans had been waiting for a running back with those moves and speed since Mr. Sanders retired. Runs like this provided juice that had been missing for years.
Week 8 saw the Dallas Cowboys come to town. For most of the afternoon, they were rude guests.
Dallas led the entire second half, thanks in large part to four Detroit turnovers. The Cowboys extended the lead to 30-24 with a Dan Bailey field goal with just 1:02 left in the fourth quarter.
What happens next is too amazing to boil down to a few sentences here. Instead, read this detailed breakdown of the triumphant conclusion.
When Matthew Stafford leapt over the line and scored the surprise touchdown, it was one of the most exciting moments in Detroit Lions history.
At the time, this awesome comeback effort helped validate the belief that these Lions could really be legit contenders.
The Week 10 meeting with the Bears in Chicago was a pivotal game in the NFC North race. Both teams entered the game with 5-3 records.
Detroit held the lead throughout the second half, but the Bears pulled close with a Josh McCown-to-Brandon Marshall touchdown with just 40 seconds remaining.
That score closed the gap to 21-19 Lions. The touchdown was set up thanks in part to a terribly stupid roughing-the-passer penalty committed by defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
The big man atoned for his earlier sin on the two-point conversion. As soon as the ball was snapped, Fairley exploded through the A-gap. McCown barely had time to turn and hand the rock to Michael Bush before Fairley enveloped him with a giant bear hug.
After slamming the door on the Bears, Fairley did his best drum major imitation all the way down the field in front of a stunned Soldier Field crowd.
The win elevated the Lions alone into first place in the NFC North, a status they would hold for over a month.
The high point of the season came courtesy of Detroit's annual Thanksgiving date on national television.
With the whole country watching, Detroit unleashed arguably the most dominant performance of any Lions team in the Super Bowl era. The team annihilated the injury-ravaged Packers, 40-10, in a game in which the score made it appear closer than it really was.
Jeremy Ross extracted sweet revenge on the team which had released him earlier in the season. The punt return above was the gravy over top of the stuffing of the Turkey Day trouncing.
You can feel the passion and energy emanating from the rocking Ford Field stands.
Little could Jim Schwartz know that this would be the last time he would taste victory as head coach of the Detroit Lions.
When the Lions traveled to Philadelphia for a Week 14 date with the Eagles, Detroit still controlled its own playoff destiny. The Lions were 7-5 and coming off the Thanksgiving obliteration of Green Bay.
Moreover, the run defense was in the midst of a truly suffocating string of games. Here is what that unit had done during the four previous weeks:
|Opponent||Attempts||Yards||Rushing First Downs|
That all came to a crushing end in the snowy confines of Lincoln Financial Field.
Detroit's run defense completely collapsed in the fourth quarter. LeSean McCoy put up 132 yards in that fateful period, including touchdown runs of 57 and 40 yards.
He wasn't alone. As the Detroit defense was slip-sliding away, backup runner Chris Polk skated past for a 38-yard touchdown where he was untouched. Quarterback Nick Foles sashayed around right end for a 20-yard body blow to the Lions line.
The Eagles finished the day with 299 yards rushing. All of the momentum and good vibes Detroit had flowing were blown away in the blizzard blitzkrieg by the Philadelphia offense.
Amazingly, Detroit still had control over its playoff fate when the Baltimore Ravens came to Ford Field for a Monday Night Football date in Week 15.
The Lions clung to a late 16-15 lead when the Ravens began driving with just over two minutes remaining. Baltimore encroached into Detroit territory, but the Lions defense held.
With 4th-and-8 from the Lions 43-yard line, the Ravens opted to bring in kicker Justin Tucker to attempt a 61-yard field goal. Tucker had already made five field goals during the game, as the Lions defense had done a fine job keeping Baltimore from the end zone.
As Tucker's booming boot tucked just inside the right upright, the Ford Field faithful finally sensed that maybe fate was not on their side.
On Detroit's first offensive play after the kick, Stafford's pass was picked off by Matt Elam and the game was over. So was control of its own playoff destiny for Detroit.
Here is a montage of Tucker's handiwork from the game courtesy of the Ravens' official website, capped with his truly awesome 61-yard game-winner.
The final nail in the 2013 coffin came late in the Week 16 loss to the New York Giants.
With the Lions clinging to a 20-13 lead with just under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Stafford dropped back to pass. As he surveyed the field, he saw Joseph Fauria breaking on an out pattern.
Stafford threw the ball high and wide, which is saying something given that Fauria is 6'8". The ball glanced off his outstretched hands and into the waiting arms of Giants safety Will Hill.
Stafford's long downward spiral from glory was complete. This play symbolized the issues with accuracy that plagued the Lions franchise quarterback down the stretch. When his team needed clutch plays, he instead delivered to the other team.