Detroit Lions Football: The 7 Greatest Games in Franchise History

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Detroit Lions Football: The 7 Greatest Games in Franchise History
The Best Lions Games

Since there isn't a whole lot to write about the Detroit Lions until the Collective Bargaining Agreement is settled, I thought I'd share what I consider the greatest seven games the Lions have ever played.

December 15, 1935 - Detroit Lions 26, New York Giants 7

The very first NFL title the Lions won, it was played at the University of Detroit Stadium in front of 12,000 people.  The Lions took command on the opening drive of the game, played in a snowstorm and scored on a 36 yard Glenn Presnell pass to Frank Christensen and never looked back. 

1935 was also the year Detroit was named the City of Champions, which was a great lift in the middle of the Great Depression.  The Detroit Tigers won the World Series, Detroit Red Wins took the Stanley Cup, Joe Louis was the reigning heavyweight boxing champion and Gar Wood, an early pioneer in unlimited hydroplane racing, became the first man ever to go 100 miles per hour on water.

December 27, 1953 - Detroit Lions 17, Cleavland Browns 16

This game is memorable for having Bobby Layne at his best, willing his team to victory over the Cleveland Browns.  Layne asked WR Jim Doran if he could beat Browns cornerback Warren Lahr. With a little more than two minutes left in the game and the Lions trailing 16-10, Lahr told Layne "Just throw it, I'll beat him." 

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Layne threw his normal wobbly pass and hit Doran who got 10 yards behind Lahr and cruised into the end zone to tie the game.  Doak Walker then calmly came on and kicked the extra point and the Lions defense shut down the Brown offense to secure the win.

December 20, 1970 - Detroit Lions 20, Green Bay Packers 0

The 1970 Packers were nothing special but they did have a chance to ruin Detroit's playoff chances the last game of the season.  They were also looking for revenge for the 40-0 lambasting they took in front of the home crowd at Lambeau Field.

The Packers played them tough and at the end of the third quarter, they were down 6-0 on two Errol Mann field goals.  But in the fourth quarter, the Lions exploded for 14 points, first on a Greg Landry 13 yard touchdown to Charlie Sanders and Lem Barney's 49 yard interception return.

The Lions became the first NFL Wild Card team, only to lose to the Dallas Cowboys 5-0 in what became the lowest scoring playoff game in NFL history.

January 24, 1991 - Detroit Lions 34, Minnesota Vikings 14

In the first game after the career ending injury of Mike Utley, the Lions came to Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with heavy hearts for their fallen teammate.  Barry Sanders put the team on his shoulders and rushed for 220 yards on 23 attempts, scoring four touchdowns.

Greg Landry helped the Lions blank the Green Packers twice in 1970

It was Barry's only four touchdown game of his career and a fine tribute to his fallen teammate.

January 5, 1992 - Detroit Lions 38, Dallas Cowboys 6

In a season marred by the career ending injury of right guard Mike Utley, the Lions could have folded the rest of the season.  Instead, they rallied around Utley's thumbs up sign and beat the Los Angeles Rams on November 17, 21-10.  That win started a season ending six game winning streak and gave the Lions their best record ever at 12-4.

With the home-field advantage, the Lions drew the Dallas Cowboys who had beaten the Chicago Bears the week before.  Wanting to avenge the 1970 playoff loss and inspired by Utley's appearance at the game, the Lions were in full control of the entire game.  The Cowboys plan to focus on stopping Barry Sanders blew up in their faces as Erik Kramer threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns. Two to Willie Green and one to Herman Moore. Barry Sanders did break loose for a 47 yard touchdown that just about blew the roof off the Pontiac Silverdome.

Unfortunately, the Lions couldn't carry the momentum to the NFC Championship game as they lost to the Washington Redskins, 41-10.

December 21, 1997 - Detroit Lions 13, New York Jets 10

This game was the game that Barry Sanders broke the 2,000 yard barrier as Sanders rushed for 184 yards on 23 attempts which included a 53 yard touchdown run. 

Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Barry Sanders became the third player to rush for over 2,000 yards in 1997

The game contained emotional highs and lows for the Lions, the high being Sanders performance and the low when linebacker Reggie Brown was injured when making a tackle.  Brown lay on the field motionless for 17 minutes to a hushed crowd, bringing back memories of the career ending injury of Mike Utley in 1991.

Emergency crews performed CPR on Brown which saved his life.  Brown had emergency surgery which allowed him to fully recover but he never played in the NFL again.

November 22, 2009 - Detroit Lions 38, Cleveland Browns 37

The 2009 season had the Lions finish at only 2-14, not much better than the previous year's record of 0-16.  But for one glorious day, two teams that were at the bottom of the heap, lit up the scoreboard in an old-fashined shootout.

The hero of the day, and perhaps starting a legacy, was Matthew Stafford who out-dueled fellow rookie Brady Quinn.  Stafford completed 26 passes on 43 attempts for 422 yards and five touchdowns.

But what endeared Stafford to starving for wins Detroit Lions fans, was the winning touchdown to rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew with no time left on the clock.

On the previous play, Stafford was hit and suffered a left shoulder separation after attempting a desperation heave to the end zone.  Browns safety Hank Poteat was called for a pass interference in the end zone as time expired, putting the ball on the one. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Stafford throws for five TD's against the Browns in 2009

Stafford was flat on his back, getting his shoulder checked and was helped off the field to be replaced by Daunte Culpepper.  However, Cleveland called a time out which allowed Stafford to re-enter the game, telling head coach Jim Schwartz that he was ready.

Schwartz joked after the game that Stafford's best play of the day might have been eluding four team doctors to get back on the field.

Stafford found Pettigrew in the end-zone to tie the game and Jason Hanson kicked the extra point for the win.

So which game do you think was the best?  If there are one that you think are better, please post...and be sure to vote for the one you think was the best!

 

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