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Thursday, July 10, 2014
Other memorable Detroit Lions plays

By Michael Rothstein

All week we have looked at the top three most memorable plays in Detroit Lions history. This, obviously, means they weren't the only plays considered.

Here's a brief synopsis of many other plays -- or moments -- that were under consideration.

Mike Utley paralyzed, Nov. 17, 1991: The play was somewhat routine. Everything after was not. Utley was blocking David Rocker when Rocker tried to deflect a pass from quarterback Erik Kramer. He landed on Utley's head and neck, shattering one of his vertebrae and paralyzing him. The Lions scored on the play, but Utley laid on the ground and gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he was taken off the field on a stretcher. Utley has since started the Mike Utley Foundation to help those disabled due to injury.

Chuck Hughes dies on the field, Oct. 24, 1971: This wasn't a play as much as what happened after a completion to Charlie Sanders. Hughes, a wide receiver, is the only NFL player to ever die on the field. Hughes collapsed heading back to the huddle following a play, having a massive heart attack. Doctors tried to revive him on the field and took him away by ambulance. The effect of this play, according to a story by Les Carpenter, then of Yahoo! Sports, was the installation of defibrillators at stadiums. To read more on the play and the man, check out Carpenter's story.

Paul Edinger's field goal, Dec., 24, 2000: The rookie kicker made a 54-yard field goal with two seconds left to give Chicago a 23-20 win over the Lions, knocking them out of the playoffs when a Detroit victory would have ensured postseason qualification. Interim head coach Gary Moeller, who took over for Bobby Ross midseason, was fired in favor of Marty Mornhinweg. Moeller had been running the football operations as well -- yet had those duties pulled when the Lions hired Matt Millen to control football operations. Had Edinger's kick missed, Detroit would have made the playoffs and Millen might have never been hired.

Brett Favre to Sterling Sharpe, Jan. 8, 1994: Detroit thought it had a playoff victory. It did not, instead succumbing to the playmaking ability of Brett Favre. Favre drove down the field and found an open Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds left to give the Packers a 28-24 win over the Lions in the wild-card round of the playoffs. The pass was thrown across the field, making it even more improbable. Favre rolled to his left and hit a streaking Sharpe open in the end zone, stunning Wayne Fontes and the Lions.

Barry Sanders jukes New England, Sept. 25, 1994: So many Sanders runs could be in these spots, but this one was pretty special. Sanders weaved his way through the entirety of the New England defense on the way to scoring a touchdown. He broke numerous tackles during the play, spinning and cutting, including a vicious double-juke on a Patriots defender on his way to a touchdown.

Calvin Johnson outjumps Cincinnati, Oct. 20, 2013: This play was quite similar to the Dallas triple-coverage catch that is in our Top 3. Johnson ran a post route that took him completely across the field. Matthew Stafford eluded tacklers and threw the ball seconds before being hit. Johsnon ended up in the perfect spot and outjumped three Bengals players to score.

Matthew Stafford's fake spike, Oct. 27, 2013: The Lions' current quarterback has made a lot of big plays in his career -- many of them to Johnson. This one, though, was all his own doing. Driving down the field in the final minutes against Dallas, Stafford calls for a spike to give Detroit one last play on the goal-line to win. Instead, he takes the ball and dives over his offensive linemen to score and give the Lions a 31-30 win.

Billy Sims "karate kick" run, Nov. 13, 1983: Sims took a pitch to the right and at what looked to be full speed leapt in the air and completely hurdled one Houston defender, stepping on him in the process. In mid-air, Sims then ran into another defender, essentially kicking him in the chest and head.

Billy Sims' knee injury, Oct. 21, 1984: As described in this Oklahoman story, Sims tried to change the play, arguing with quarterback Gary Danielson. He lost the argument, took the handoff and planted his foot to cut back. Sims tried to avoid a tackler. He was barely touched. Didn't matter. His right knee couldn't withstand the movement and fell apart. Sims would never play in the NFL again.

Monte Clark's playoff prayer, Dec. 31, 1983: The Lions coach called kicker Eddie Murray out for a 43-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that could have won the game. On the sidelines, Clark pressed his hands together and looked upwards in prayer. Murray missed the field goal, ending the Lions' season.

Wanting the wind, Nov. 24, 2002: The Lions and Bears went to overtime. The coin was flipped. The Lions won the toss. Instead of taking the ball during the sudden-death period, then-Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg did the unthinkable. He took the wind on a windy day in Chicago, giving the Bears the ball. The Lions never had a chance. Chicago drove down the field and Edinger made a 40-yard field goal to give the Bears a 20-17 win.