On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions will play their fifth game in history on the date of Sept. 8. While the Lions have found success in the limited sample size, the majority of the seasons, including Sunday's date on the schedule, saw the Lions fail to do much. In 1985, 1996 and 2002, the Lions played on Sept. 8 and posted losing records on the season. However, in 1991, the Lions gained their first victory of the year on Sept. 8 against the Green Bay Packers en route to the best season in franchise history.
In the '85 game, the Lions started their season on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons dominated the Lions in the first quarter, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead while holding quarterback Eric Hipple to 0 for 4 passing and 2 interceptions. After failing to move the ball past their own 25-yard line in the opening frame, the Lions woke up by scoring 2 touchdowns in both the second and third quarters. Hipple erased his first quarter mistakes, as he accounted for the Lions' first 3 touchdowns: two to
tight end wide receiver Jeff Chadwick and one to back James Jones. Jones would run the game-winning touchdown in with a little under 5 minutes left in the third. The Falcons attempted a comeback but could only muster two field goals in the final frame to give the Lions the win, 28-27. For Hipple, 1985 would end up being his most successful individual season, as he threw for a career-high 2,952 yards and 17 touchdowns.
When the Packers came to the Silverdome in early September 1991, the Lions had already suffered a blowout 45-0 loss at the hands of the Washington Redskins. But Detroit would turn its season around with a solid victory against the Pack. After missing the Redskins game with a rib injury, Barry Sanders returned to the Lions lineup and sparked the offense near the end of the first quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run that included a trio of missed tackles. Sanders would finish the game with a paltry 42 yards on 18 carries, but his normal output wasn't necessary thanks to quarterback Rodney Peete. One week removed from a 0 touchdown, 3 interception performance, Peete went off, setting a career high for both completions and attempts. His stat line: 25 for 38 for 271 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Kicker Eddie Murray booted three field goals, Mel Gray added 158 all-purpose yards to the cause and the Packers scored 2 touchdowns to make a final score of 23-14 in favor of the Lions. After the game, Wayne Fontes had a great quote in regards to the fans' reaction after the initially poor start to the season: "I drive in my car and they wave. All their fingers are still showing."
After failing to find the end zone in Week 1 of the '96 season, first-year head coach Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued to only score via the field goal in Detroit. It was a rare game where the Lions defense dominated their opposition, holding the Bucs to a mere 75 yards on the ground and limiting their scoring to two field goals. Barry once again led the Lions offense, opening the scoring with a 54-yard touchdown run (and 77 yards total) on a 93-yard drive. Defensive back Corey Raymond returned one of two Trent Dilfer interceptions for a Lions touchdown, and the other pick set up Herman Moore's 23-yard touchdown reception from Scott Mitchell to seal Detroit's 21-6 victory.
On the road in '02, the Lions lost at the hands of Ricky Williams and the Miami Dolphins. It's not necessary to dive too much into the game, but it should be noted that it was the first game to feature "Comeback Kid" Joey Harrington. Joey made his Lions debut 5 minutes into the fourth quarter and led a meaningless 77-yard touchdown drive. His first Detroit stat line was 4 for 11 for 41 yards and 1 touchdown.
Hopefully the Lions bounce back and win on Sunday after losing their last game on Sept. 8. After writing this article, I noticed that the dates on this year's schedule align with '91. Since I'm a superstitious sports fan, I'm looking for some big things to happen this season. Super Bowl anyone?
Overall record on Sept. 8
'85 at Atlanta Falcons, 28-27
'91 vs. Green Bay Packers, 23-14
'96 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 21-6
'02 at Miami Dolphins, 21-49