There’s a lot riding on this game. Yes, for the Lions, of course; but, for me personally.
It’s Sunday and I’m feeling good. The Lions are outplaying the Cowboys, up 7-3, and looking like they’re about to increase the lead as halftime nears…
Then Matthew Stafford gets read by Sean Lee and throws an interception that nearly becomes a pick six. Having not allowed the Cowboys in the red zone the entire half, this play sets up the Cowboys’ first TD—a spectacular 5-yard catch by Dez Bryant from Tony Romo.
Jesse, my friend but lifelong Cowboys fan who sits next to me, is elated. Which of us picks up the tab at the Cantina is riding on this game. More importantly, taunting rights that can’t be flagged by a ref or fined by the NFL are riding on this game too.
My mind goes back to the previous game against the Bengals. The Lions outplayed them in the first half and were about to increase the lead before halftime when a blocked field goal got returned to the Lions 40 and set up a TD pass from Andy Dalton to Marvin Jones.
Finishing. The Lions have to finish.
The Lions lost the game against the Bengals because they failed to finish both halves and now they failed to finish the first half against the Cowboys.
After 4 turnovers compared to zero from Dallas, the Lions are trying to make a comeback. Time is running out; but, Detroit, only down by a field goal, has the ball. They go four and out with the fourth down play nearly becoming a third interception. The announcers call the game for the Cowboys when Dallas gets the ball back with less than a minute and a half to play.
I’ve seen the Lions come back in too many games to give up all hope. Jesse has watched the Cowboys throw away too many games at the end to be comfortable. The game isn’t over. This is when the Lions do what they haven’t done in their last three halves of football:
They finish. And they finish spectacularly.
Stafford makes clutch throws to Johnson, Durham, Johnson again and then fools everybody watching and everyone playing by leaping and extending the ball over the goal line after signaling he was going to spike it and stop the clock.
I’m already out of my seat but now I’m jumping and shouting and fist pumping. All the Lions need to do is make an extra point! My excitement is replaced by nervousness as my mind goes back to another Lions game:
Detroit had just completed an 80-yard TD drive with only seconds left on the clock. All they needed was the extra point to tie the game. The snap was botched and the Lions lost.
Yes, that game was nearly ten years ago during the Joey Harrington days, but since then we’ve all seen the Lions find many creative ways to lose games. Just in the previous game, botched special teams plays at the end of halves caused the Lions’ heartbreaking loss. I would be nervous until that extra point was made and the clock read zero.
When both happened, the Lions showed that yes, they can finish. But can they finish the season? The playoffs? The Super Bowl?
I believe they can. I’ll get into why in a future article. Still, no matter how hot the Lions get, even their most optimistic fans are likely to get nervous as the haunting games of Lions’ past are not easily removed from our memories.