Sat, 15 Aug 2020

O'HARA: Top 10 Lions games from the past 10 years

Detroit Lions
14 Jul 2020, 20:25 GMT+10

The Detroit Lions can look back at their last 10 years and see that they were a different team with decidedly different results from 2010-2019 than they were the previous 10 seasons.

The Lions played big games, with big production from Pro Bowl players such as quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, wide receiver Golden Tate, kicker Matt Prater and others.

Following is one man's opinion of the Lions' top 10 games of the last 10 years.

One game was a loss, but it stands out because of a record that was broken.

As always, feel free to disagree.

1. 2011: Lions 24, Bears 13.

Back in prime time.

It was more than a game. Playing on Monday Night Football for the first time since 2001 meant the Lions had come through their Lost Decade of endless losing and were relevant again as playoff contenders.

The Lions were off to a 4-0 start, and downtown Detroit was buzzing at noon in anticipation of what was to come.

The Lions did not disappoint their fans. The win got them to 5-0. Running back Jahvid Best was the star of the night with 163 yards rushing, including an 88-yard TD run.

The 12th Man - the Lions' fans - redlined the decibel meter to such a degree that the Bears' offensive linemen were flagged for nine false starts because they could not hear their quarterback's signals.

2. 2012: One for history.

Megatron passes Jerry Rice.

The score didn't really matter (OK -- Falcons 31, Lions 18 in Game 15 at Ford Field).

The story of the night was Johnson going after Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards. Megatron got it with 11 catches for 225 yards. That gave him 1,892, surpassing Rice's 1,848 in 1995.

Johnson added 72 yards in the final game against the Bears to close out the season with 1,964, a record that still stands.

3. 2011: Lions 38, Chargers 10.

Christmas Eve clincher.

The Lions clinched their first playoff berth since a wild-card appearance in 1999. They dominated the Chargers from the beginning.

Stafford threw three TD passes in the first half as the Lions took a 24-0 lead at halftime. Stafford was brilliant, passing for 373 yards and a passer rating of 137.6.

The defense intercepted two of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' passes. Defensive end Cliff Avril returned one for the game's last TD.

Holiday spilled over after the game. Lions players circled the playing field after the game to shake hands with fans who had remained after the game.

4. 2015: Lions 18, Packers 16.

Road winners - finally.

It doesn't sound like much - a two-point win to make their record 2-7- but the meaning outweighed the final score. It was the Lions' first road win over the Packers since 1991. The road losing streak that covered 23 years and 24 games, with a playoff loss to the Packers in the 1994 season, was a burden for the Lions to carry year after year.

Ameer Abdullah' 104-yard kickoff return to start the second half set up a TD that gave the Lions a 9-3 lead. They never trailed after that, despite some anxious moments at the end - a fumbled onside kick by Johnson and a 52-yard field-goal attempt by the Packers' Mason Crosby that fell far short.

Finally, it was the Packers who came up short - not the Lions.

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5. 2013: Lions 31, Cowboys 30.

Rally and record.

There were games that meant more than this one in Game 8 of the 2013 season, but it was hard to beat the drama and performance of the Lions' offensive stars.

Johnson had 13 catches for 329 yards, a record for most receiving yards in a game in regulation time.

Stafford passed for 488 yards and one TD -- a two-yard shot to Johnson.

The game was decided in a final rally by the Lions that was as memorable as it seemed to be improbable.

After the Cowboys kicked a field goal for a 30-24 lead with 1:02 left, Stafford drove the Lions 80 yards in six plays.

After two big completions - 40 yards to wide receiver Kris Durham, and 22 to Johnson to the one - Stafford jumped and extended the ball through a gap over the goal line for the touchdown.

6. 2014: Lions 22, Falcons 21.

Second chance, field goal.

In their first game in London since playing a preseason game in 1993, the Lions played the first half like tourists asking for directions to the end zone as the Falcons took a 21-0 lead.

It was a different story in the second half. They held the Falcons scoreless and rallied to win on kicker Matt Prater's field goal as time expired.

There was some luck involved, though. Prater's first attempt from 43 yards was wide, but the play was whistled dead because of a penalty on the Lions.

With a second chance, Prater made the game-winner.

It was a big win for the Lions. It sent them into the bye with a 6-2 record under first-year head coach Jim Caldwell and on the way to an 11-5 record and a wild-card playoff berth.

7. 2016: Lions 16, Vikings 13.

Prater's Thanksgiving rerun.

The Vikings had their fill of Prater in Game 9 two games earlier when he tied it at 16-16 with a 58-yard field goal on the last play of regulation. The Lions won in overtime on Tate's TD catch.

There were two more kicks from Prater in the Thanksgiving rematch: A 48-yard field goal with 1:45 left to make it 13-13, and a 40-yarder as time ran out for the 16-13 win.

The two games proved decisive. The Lions made the playoffs as a wild card at 9-7. The Vikings missed the playoffs at 8-8 after a 5-0 start.

8. 2011: Lions 28, Raiders 27.

Stafford to Johnson beats Raiders.

The Lions had dropped to 7-5 after their 5-0 start and were at 8-5 going into the Oakland game.

They were in deep trouble when Stafford fumbled on a blind-side sack and the Raiders returned it for a TD and a 27-14 lead with 7:47 left.

Stafford didn't flinch. He finished off two drives with TD passes - three yards to wide receiver Titus Young to make it 27-21, and a six-yard laser delivered as he was backpedalling to Johnson for the win.

Stafford threw for 391 yards and four TDs. Johnson was his favorite target - nine catches for 214 yards and two TDs.

The playoff run was still on.

9. 2010: Lions 34, Dolphins 27.

Streak-snapper.

The Lions ended a grim NFL-record 26-game road losing streak with a win over the Dolphins in their last road game of the season.

The Lions scored the last 17 points to rally from a 27-17 deficit. Best's 53-yard TD catch and Dave Raymer's tying field goal set it up for linebacker DeAndre Levy to run an interception back 30 yards for the game-winning score with 2:11 left.

10. 2018: Lions 26, Patriots 10.

Patriots game.

Matt Patricia could not have hand picked a better opponent for his first win as head coach of the Lions. After losing the first two games, the Lions dominated the Patriots in the win.

The Lions held the Patriots to 12 first downs and 209 total yards. The offense controlled the ball for more than 39 minutes. Patriots QB legend Tom Brady completed 14 of 26 passes for 133 yards, with one TD and one interception.

It was fitting that the Lions won with their defense. It was Patricia's specialty in 14 seasons as a Patriots assistant coach.

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