Lions just couldn’t cash in in 2008

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

By Ryan Arena


I could write no other opening line that sums up what the Detroit Lions are going through any better.

0-16. It says it all.

What Detroit did this season is simply VERY hard to do in today’s game, especially when a team finds itself in position to win a few games. And believe it or not, Detroit had its chances. Calvin Johnson had a monster effort despite it all – he may soon be the class of the league at receiver. But he had little help – five quarterbacks took the reins for Detroit at one point or another this season behind a makeshift offensive line, and to compound matters, the defense was atrocious. 11 of Detroit’s 16 opponents scored 30 points or more. Only one scored less than 20.

In the spirit of such a historic event, let’s look back on the Lions’ five “greatest” hits of the 2008 campaign.

No. 5 – Indianapolis 31, Detroit 21 – In the midst of what would become a nine game winning streak (and counting), the Lions looked poised to shock the Colts in the fourth quarter, after a Kevin Smith touchdown run and a Dan Orlovsky two-point pass tied the game at 21. Indy woke up, chewed up over nine minutes of action and scored 10 points to send the Lions to 0-14. In the game, Dallas Clark set an Indy record with 12 catches, most ever in team history for a tight end.

No. 4 –Tennessee 47, Detroit 10 – Horrifying. That’s the best way I can describe it. Angry about losing their first game of the season a week prior to the Jets, the Titans needed to vent some frustration. Enter the Lions, who often fancy their Thanksgiving Day home game as their Super Bowl, but this season it was anything but. The Titans rolled up 456 yards of offense – 292 rushing – despite basically sitting on the ball in the fourth quarter to run out the clock. Four Titan backs recorded rushes of 22 yards or more, the longest being a no-doubt touchdown run by Chris Johnson that spanned 58 yards.

No. 3 – Green Bay 31, Detroit 21 – It clinched the opposite of the “dream season”, so it has to be here. And it was basically a microcosm of the Lions entire season. Falling behind by two touchdowns early, only to fight back and tie the game at 14. Detroit fell behind by 10 again, cut it to three, then saw a soul-crushing 71-yard Donald Driver reception basically break their backs, their wills, and their season for good midway through the fourth quarter. Two Green Bay backs rushed for over 100 yards. Two receivers gained over 100 yards. Aaron Rodgers passed for over 300, and Calvin Johnson provided the lone bright spot for Detroit, with his 100-yard, two score effort.

Watch that game, and you know everything there is to know about the 2008 Lions.

No. 2 — Tampa Bay 38, Detroit 20 –After a quarter, the Motor City Kitties led 17-0, and as we know down here in NFC South country, the Bucs don’t exactly possess an ideal come-from-behind offense.

But despite that, it took Tampa all of eight minutes and change to score three touchdowns and take a 21-17 lead into halftime. With the Lions perhaps shell-shocked, Tampa tacked on a punt return and interception return off of quarterback Daunte Culpepper for touchdowns in the first six minutes of the third quarter. It was a 35-0 run, and Detroit would soon fall to 0-11.

No. 1 – Green Bay 48, Detroit 25 –To look at the score would be to think that this was just another blowout – and it was, for about three quarters.

Green Bay surged ahead 21-0 in the first quarter, and led 24-9 after three. But in the fourth, Calvin Johnson came alive – his two long scores, coupled with a safety recorded by the defense vaulted Detroit ahead of Green Bay, 25-24, with 7:41 left in the game.

That Green Bay answered to steal the win back wasn’t that shocking. That it answered four times, including three touchdowns – two defensively – in that little time span was.

Despite their best efforts, Detroit managed to be blown out not once, but twice – in the same game! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen before.

But it may well have been the greatest hint that the Lions were set to go down in history – and infamy.