Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Ten Lions moments that stood out in 2013
By Michael Rothstein
There are less than 12 hours left in the 2013 calendar year, and it is probably a year to forget for the Detroit Lions.
For every positive Detroit had -- a good draft, a good start -- there was a much more difficult negative. Ziggy Ansah had multiple injuries that cost him two games this season and the Lions, of course, crumpled over the last two months of the year, eventually leading to the firing of coach Jim Schwartz.
So on the final day of this year, we look at 10 moments that stood out over the past 12 months. And from me to you, have a happy and safe New Year's Eve. See you in 2014.
Here are the 10 moments that stood out about the Lions in 2013.
Firing Jim Schwartz starts a new era in Detroit.
1. The firing. It came on the 364th day of 2013, but the Lions' decision to fire Schwartz changes everything for the team next year. As general managers are wont to do when they make a switch, Martin Mayhew wants to change the culture a little with the next hire. The only change that will truly shift the culture is winning, however that happens. Schwartz finished his Lions tenure with a 29-51 record.
2. Kickalicious. He was an international sensation, a YouTube kicking find that actually lasted a few weeks in training camp and even earned a trip back to Michigan for a midseason tryout. But Havard Rugland never made the Lions roster -- or any other NFL roster -- in 2013. The Lions had more fun with this by signing Carlin Isles, the rugby star, during the last week of the season to the practice squad and, eventually, a futures contract.
3. The collapse. No other way to put it. The way the Lions fell apart at the end of the 2013 season, going from 6-3 to 7-9 and out of the playoffs entirely, was a failure of the entire organization. It cost Schwartz his job, cost the Lions millions of dollars in revenue for a home playoff game, and left the future of many veterans in flux with a new staff coming in.
4. Schwartz and the fans. Maybe this is too high because it is fresh in the mind, but Schwartz yelling at the Lions fans for booing after taking a knee to go to overtime was a standout moment this season. You don't see a coach scream at fans in the middle of a game too many times. Schwartz lost his cool and then it took question upon question for him to admit anything the next day talking to the media. If anything locked up his fate no matter how the season ended, that episode was it.
5. "Don't say I'm scared, cause we ain't:" That's what Schwartz told the media after a failed fake field goal against Pittsburgh, and then watched as the Steelers drove 97 yards to take the lead and eventually, the game from Detroit in the middle of November. That play might have changed the entire season for the Lions.
6. The 2013 draft. This might be one of the high points for the Lions in this calendar year. Mayhew drafted well, including finding immediate starters in defensive end Ansah (first round), right guard Larry Warford (third round), punter Sam Martin (fifth round) and a starter by midseason in right tackle LaAdrian Waddle (undrafted free agent). Add cornerback Darius Slay (second round), defensive end Devin Taylor (fourth round) and tight end Joseph Fauria (undrafted) and that's a strong, strong rookie class.
7. The snow bowl. It was a game where Reggie Bush hurt himself in warmups, Calvin Johnson came up from one tackle with a facemask full of snow and you couldn't see from one side of the stadium to the other. Also in that game, LeSean McCoy ran for 217 yards and the Lions fumbled seven times, losing three.
8. Matthew Stafford's leap. This is as low as it is mostly because of everything that followed after. Stafford only had one good game following the last-minute win over Dallas in October when he jumped over the Cowboys defensive line after faking a spike at the goal-line. It looked like a moment of maturation and a next step for Stafford. Instead it turned into one of the last good moments the quarterback had this year.
9. Johnson's big day. It corresponded with Stafford's game, but really, that Dallas game might have been one of two big highlights of the season for the Lions, along with the Thanksgiving win over Green Bay. Johnson had the second-best receiving yardage game in NFL history, catching 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown in a 31-30 win over the Cowboys. Perhaps this should have been a sign to come, as the Lions needed all of those catches and all of those yards to beat Dallas.
10. The field goal endings. The Lions lost three games this season on field goals that shouldn't have happened. A shanked Sam Martin punt set up the game-winner for Cincinnati in October. Then Detroit saw Baltimore's Justin Tucker make a 61-yarder on Monday night to severely damage the Lions playoff hopes and the New York Giants' Josh Brown make a 45-yarder to fully extinguish them.
BONUS MOMENT: Johnson's catch. He leapt between three Cincinnati defenders, including one who took a horrific jumping angle on the ball, and caught the ball between all of them. The catch gave the Lions a touchdown and another how-did-he-make-that-catch to a career's worth of them for the top receiver in the NFL.