A common theme to Lions game recaps is saying that they constantly find new ways to lose. Well, I'd say that was again the case today, as Detroit dropped a wild game to the Giants by a score of 28-20. The loss is Detroit's 24th straight on the road, which ties a record set by the Lions back in 2003.
The ridiculousness of this game began early on, as the Lions took over with great field position following a stop because New York's punter dropped the snap. The Lions capitalized on the mistake, moving the ball efficiently and capping off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson from Shaun Hill.
The Lions came up with another stop on the proceeding drive, but the Giants punter redeemed himself by pinning Detroit deep in its own territory. After the Lions failed to move the chains, New York got great field position of its own and ultimately scored on a four-yard Brandon Jacobs TD run.
In the second quarter, the Lions shot themselves in the foot when Ndamukong Suh took an awful hands-to-the-face penalty. If not for the flag, Detroit would have put New York in a third and long situation and could have ended up with some great field position once again by making a stop. Instead New York got an automatic fist down and proceeded to go right down the field both through the air and on the ground. The Lions couldn't stop anything and eventually gave up a 33-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham.
With about three minutes left in the half, the Lions got the ball back and started moving down the field. Things came to a screeching halt when Shaun Hill went down with an injury, which we now is a broken left forearm. Suddenly Drew Stanton, the Lions' third-string quarterback, was forced to go in the game. Although he came in without having much of a chance to warm up or anything, he got the Lions into field goal range and Jason Hanson nailed an awkward-looking kick from 50 yards away.
In the third quarter, things didn't go well for the Lions at all. Stanton was putting together a pretty good looking drive to open the second half, but a 28-yard pass to Nate Burleson that would have moved the Lions down to the New York five was called back because of a dumb illegal formation penalty. On the very next play Stanton was hit from behind and fumbled the ball away to the Giants.
New York took advantage of the turnover by quickly going down the field. Again it looked like the Lions couldn't stop anything, but they actually pulled it together and got a stop after NY got down to the three-yard line. Unfortunately, Cliff Avril took a dumb unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving the Giants new life. After Brandon Jacobs was stuffed twice, Eli Manning found Travis Beckum for a touchdown, putting the Giants up by 11.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter and this game looked like it was as good as over. The Giants were dominating Detroit and nothing was going right for the Lions. Check that, nothing was going right for the Lions until Stanton heaved a pass to Calvin Johnson on third and 10. Johnson made the catch and Giants safety Antrel Rolle whiffed on the play, allowing Johnson to run by himself down the sideline for an 87-yard touchdown. Just like that, Detroit was back in the game.
After trading punts, the Lions got the ball back and went exclusively to the shotgun. The move worked, as Stanton was completing a lot of short passes to move the chains. The Lions went from being on their own 13 to being at midfield within a matter of minutes, and once again Stanton moved the chains by finding Burleson on a short pass. Burleson picked up eight yards on the play, but he fumbled just before hitting the ground. New York ended up recovering, and just like that all of the Lions' momentum was gone.
Just as they did throughout the game, the Giants capitalized on Detroit's mistake by quickly turning the fumble into points. Ahmad Bradshaw rumbled for 45 yards on the first play of the next drive, and Jacobs punched the ball in from six yards out two plays later. Once again, Detroit trailed by 11 points.
Thanks to a 58-yard kickoff return by Stefan Logan, the Lions had a chance to make things interesting, and they delivered. Although Detroit went three and out, Jason Hanson nailed another 50-yard field goal, making it a one possession game. Then, Detroit forced the Giants to go three and out, giving the Lions the ball with 2:18 to go. Detroit needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion, and with the way the Lions were moving the ball it seemed like a comeback was possible. Unfortunately, all hopes of a comeback were gone when Stanton threw a pass a bit high for Brandon Pettigrew and got it picked off down at the NY 16-yard line. The ball bounced off Pettigrew's hands and right to Rolle for the interception, sealing the Giants' 28-20 victory.
You have to commend the Lions' effort in this game, because they never gave up and kept fighting even after losing Shaun Hill and seeing Zack Follett be taken off the field on a stretcher. In the end, though, Detroit's dumb penalties (they had 11 for 91 yards) and costly turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) proved to be too much to overcome. Once again, we are left talking about the what-if scenarios that could have resulted in a Lions victory, because this game was definitely winnable. The theme of this season has been Detroit coming up short in winnable games, and that proved to be the case again today.
The Lions are off next week, as they get a much needed bye. Detroit returns to action in two weeks on Halloween at home against the Redskins, when Matthew Stafford is expected to return as the Lions' starting quarterback.