- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over the next two weeks, we will look at 10 critical plays that shaped the Detroit Lions' season in one way or another.
Not all of them will be bad and certainly, with the way the Lions cratered to a 7-9 finish, will not all be good. And some may be have just been fantastic plays.
And as always when it comes to these sorts of lists, this is subjective and are plays, for good or bad, that stuck out to me when I made this list. Agree or disagree vehemently, let’s chat about it. Oh, and we’ll be going in reverse order from 10 to 1.
Past plays: No. 10 -- PI in Arizona; No. 9 -- Reggie Bush’s screen vs. Minnesota; No. 8 -- Calvin Johnson gets the drops; No. 7 -- Jeremy Ross’ snow-covered return; No. 6 -- Matthew Stafford’s pick-six; No. 5 -- Mike Nugent’s game-winning field goal.
Today, we present Play No. 4
When: Dec. 22, 2013
What happened: Detroit got the ball back on its own 25-yard line with 23 seconds left, needing a score to win and keep its playoff hopes alive. Instead, the Lions handed the ball off to Theo Riddick and then, in the play we are highlighting, Jim Schwartz and the Lions chose to take a knee and play for overtime instead of trying to get into field-goal range despite having two timeouts left. What happened next made this play memorable on many levels. The fans booed and instead of preparing his team, Schwartz responded, yelling back at the frustrated fans.
What they said about it: Schwartz after the game: “I was disappointed to hear boos. We're getting ready to go to overtime right there and our crowd is great for us and they support us," Schwartz said. "The team needed a lift right there. We didn't need to feel bad at that point. We just intercepted a ball that got us to overtime. I thought that I was just trying to get our team ready. That's tough, the situations when your players are getting booed and you want them fired up. That's what I was trying to do right there."
Schwartz the next day: “Well, I probably should have done just like I did at the end of the second quarter and just kept it in my mind," Schwartz said. "Just kept it in my mind, like why is somebody booing when it is four seconds left in the half? Don't they know what the situation is and the risk/reward of doing something other than what we did right there?
"So that would probably be, if you were going to label it a regret, yeah, just don't verbalize it. Just keep it back in there."
How the Lions’ season was impacted: If there was anything that completely sealed Schwartz’ fate with the Lions beyond what happened with play calls and interceptions and touchdowns, it was how he reacted to the Detroit fans booing his decision to kneel. He lost his composure, lost his cool and it was emblematic of how the Lions often played in the fourth quarters of games during the second half of the season. Schwartz’ attitude toward the fans may not have impacted the players, but his initial denial of yelling at the fans to his flip the next day of admitting it wasn’t the best idea after a lot of prodding told you a lot about his tenure.