With a 5-4 record on Dec. 8, we've definitely seen worse game days for the Detroit Lions this year. As the calendar goes deeper into December, there will likely be fewer and fewer games to choose from since the NFL didn't expand the schedule to 16 games until 1978. In any case, here are the games that made the cut this week:
Worst Game: 2002 - Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals - 20-23 (OT)
It doesn't get much worse than finishing 3-13 on the season with a loss coming
at the hands off the foot of Bill Gramatica. Yeah, he's the one who tore his ACL celebrating a field goal. Both squads entered this game with pathetic teams and ugly records: the Cardinals at 4-8 and the Lions at 3-9. Detroit held a narrow 3-point lead until Gramatica tied it up with 3:20 left in regulation, and in overtime, a pass interference call on Lions cornerback Todd Lyght kept Arizona's game-winning drive going. At the time, the loss was Detroit's second in OT in three games, with the other being when Marty Mornhinweg infamously took the wind against the Bears.
Dishonorable Mention: 1946 - Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears - 24-45
The Bears scored 2 touchdowns and a field goal in the first five and a half minutes of the game. It didn't get much better after that, as Chicago outgained Detroit on the ground 158-16 in the rout.
Best Game: 1991 - Detroit Lions vs. New York Jets - 34-20
As we all know, there are many games worth talking about from the '91 season, and the Dec. 8 game against the Jets is no different. Led by a stout defense and the electric Barry Sanders, the Lions earned their first 10-win season in 21 years, the last coming in 1970 when Detroit finished 10-4 and lost 5-0 to the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs.
Without the ball, the Lions recorded 5 sacks and forced 5 turnovers (including a fumble returned for a touchdown) to stifle the Jets offense. The 5 turnovers gave Detroit 17 turnovers in a three-game span at the time. Opposite the defense, Sanders was all the Lions needed for offensive output, as he gained 146 all-purpose yards and scored 2 rushing TDs. Erik Kramer also submitted a solid game under center, as he went 18 for 31 for 235 yards with 1 TD and 1 pick.
On top of securing a 10-win season, the victory also gave Detroit an undefeated season at home at the Silverdome (8-0) for the first time since '62, when they posted a 7-0 mark at Tiger Stadium. It also put the Lions in position to make the playoffs for the first time since '83. All in all, it was a landmark victory for Detroit.
Honorable Mention: 1957 - Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns - 20-7
It's tough to write any retrospective article and not highlight two Lions legends: the first being the aforementioned Barry Sanders and the other, curse or no curse, being Bobby Layne. The Lions won their most recent NFL championship in '57, and even though Layne didn't finish this game due to a broken ankle, the Lions wouldn't have been there without him. In a preview of the title game, the Lions smacked around the Browns without Layne, who left the game with Detroit leading 3-0 in the second quarter. Three weeks later, the Lions did much of the same, stomping Cleveland 59-14 in the championship. '57 ended up being Layne's last season in Detroit, as the Lions traded him a couple weeks into '58, giving birth to the "Curse of Bobby Layne," which supposedly haunts the Lions to this day.
Overall record on Dec. 8
'46 vs. Chicago Bears, 24-45
'57 vs. Cleveland Browns, 20-7
'63 vs. Cleveland Browns, 38-10
'68 at Atlanta Falcons, 24-7
'74 at Cincinnati Bengals, 23-19
'85 at New England Patriots, 6-23
'91 vs. New York Jets, 34-20
'96 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 22-24
'02 at Arizona Cardinals, 20-23 (OT)