- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over the past two weeks, we looked at critical plays in the 2013 Detroit Lions season, counting back from 10 all the way to today.
Not all of them were bad and certainly, with the way the Lions cratered to a 7-9 finish, were not all good. Some may be have just been fantastic plays.
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.
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; No. 4 -- The kneel to end regulation in Giants-Lions; No. 3 -- Stafford’s fake spike; No. 2 -- Justin Tucker’s field goal
Today, we present what I believe to be the play that most shaped this Lions season.
When: Nov. 17, 2013
What happened: It was, at best, a questionable call and a gutsy call. It was also a bizarre call and, considering both how it turned out combined with the logic behind it, a silly decision. The Lions led, 27-23, with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter on the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. Fourth down. Five yards to go. Logic says kick the field goal and take the 30-23 lead.
Not for Jim Schwartz. Schwartz instead chose to fake the field goal, sending punter Sam Martin -- who had never attempted a fake in his life -- running over to the right side. He was hit short of the first down and fumbled. Pittsburgh then drove 97 yards and scored what would be the game-winning touchdown.
But, as Schwartz said, "don't say I'm scared." That call clearly showed that.
What they said about it: Schwartz: “It had to do with trying to make the plays to win the game. We didn’t make it. But look, you could say whatever you want,” Schwartz said. “Y’all say whatever you want about me, OK. Don’t say I’m scared. Cause we ain’t, OK? This team is going to be aggressive. We’re going to play our very best. We didn’t play well enough to win this game, OK. But it’s not because we’re passive or anything.”
Martin: “I got hit by a 350-pound man. I don't think I had the first down, but regardless, that guy made a great play. You have to give him credit. When you looked at initially, it was a big hole.”
Center Dominic Raiola: “I don’t know how much momentum we’re going to lose from this. Going back home with Tampa coming into town, everything’s right in front of us. You know, we’re not, we don’t need a State of the Union. It’s just a loss. We lost, you know. They got us. Just bounce back like we do after every loss."
Kicker David Akers: "It comes down to a mentality. 'Are you going to play it safe or are you going to be aggressive and go after it?'"
How the Lions’ season was impacted: Usually, I’m not a believer in one play or one decision completely derailing a season, but walking down to the media scrum after the loss, I distinctly remember turning to another reporter and openly wondering if that decision shifted the karma of the entire Lions' season. Yes, Detroit's players praised the aggressiveness of Schwartz with the call, but it just simply wasn’t logical. In every game Detroit lost after the Pittsburgh game, the Lions lost a fourth-quarter lead. Turnovers started to pile up by the bunches. Detroit still might have lost the game had Schwartz kicked the field goal. The Lions’ season still might have collapsed. But there was a crack in the stability there. It was a meltdown where the offense, defense and special teams did nothing from the moment the fake was called. Whether the players, coaches or anyone else realized it that afternoon, the fake field goal changed the mood of the season.