In the final game for the Lions in 2006, Detroit had two possible outcomes. The first was an expected loss to the Cowboys that would've clinched the #1 overall pick for next year's draft. The other option would be a surprising win by Detroit that could move them down to #2 and give them a record of 3-13. Nearly everyone figured Detroit would just get stomped on by Dallas as they were potentially playing to win the NFC East, but as it turns out, the Lions played spoiler to themselves for the second consecutive year. Dallas ended up one yard short and lost 39-31 to Detroit, putting the Lions behind Oakland in next year's draft. Here's how it happened.
The start of this game is one that would define how the entire day went. On the very first play of the game, Jon Kitna threw a pass to Mike Furrey that was deflected and intercepted by Roy Williams (Dallas). Williams took it to the house for what appeared to be the go ahead touchdown. The officials had other ideas as they threw a flag for a personal foul, saying that Furrey was hit in a defenseless manner. The penalty nullified the touchdown and gave Detroit the ball back. Following that huge swing in the momentum, Detroit went down the field and kicked a field goal.
On the proceeding drive, Detroit continued the scoring. Jason Hanson, by far the most consistent Lions player, nailed a 25 yard field goal putting Detroit up 6-0. The Cowboys hoped to respond, but instead went three and out again. With the ball back, Detroit wasted little time in finding the endzone for the first time on the day. Jon Kitna connected with Roy Williams on a 20 yard acrobatic touchdown that put Detroit ahead 13-0. Dallas challenged the ruling hoping that Williams only got one foot down, but the play stood and Detroit's lead remained 13.
The second quarter would nearly be the complete opposite of the first in the sense of Dallas getting things going. Tony Romo found some rhythm and drove Dallas down the field to set up a 1 yard touchdown run by Marion Barber. With some of their own momentum, Dallas forced an interception that helped give them the eventual lea. Romo once again got the Cowboys down the field and ended up throwing a 6 yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton.
With about two and a half minutes remaining in the half, Detroit still had some time to regain the lead before going into the locker rooms. At first, it looked like Dallas would have a shot to increase their lead as Detroit had to punt, but a fumble on the return by Terrance Newman changed everything. The ball just bounced off of Newman and the Lions quickly fell on it. A few plays later, Jon Kitna became the second quarterback in franchise history to throw for over 4,000 yards, an amazing feat to reach in an offense that has been so up and down all year long. After hitting that mark, Kitna made a huge play that helped change the landscape of this game. With only 8 seconds left on the clock, Kitna took the snap hoping to go to the endzone. That he did as Roy Williams had a relatively easy catch from 14 yards out to put the Lions ahead 20-14 at the half.
The start to the second half was filled with a few eventful plays. After starting off the third quarter with a long pass, Tony Romo fumbled the ball deep in Detroit territory and the Lions once again recovered. However, after the offense failed to go anywhere and had to punt, the Cowboys got the lead back again as Terrance Newman made up for his previous fumble to return the punt 43 yards for the score. Dallas held a one point advantage.
The Lions answered back with a 6+ minute drive ending with another Jason Hanson field goal. That wouldn't be the end of Detroit's answers though. Tony Romo's roller coaster ride continued as he threw an interception just two plays into the next drive. That gave Detroit the momentum to go down the field and score on a 13 yard touchdown reception by Mike Furrey. His celebration was one of the more interesting ones as he threw the ball against the endzone wall and cracked a hanging star representing the Cowboys' logo.
Before the third quarter ended, Dallas added a field goal to cut the Detroit lead down to 30-24. Heading into the final quarter of play, the usual collapse that has happened so many times this season is what came to everyone's mind. Whether it was a costly turnover or just a bad decision, both hampered the Lions' chances of winning before.
Already it looked like that fourth quarter collapse was going to happen as the start Dallas got off to was so lucky that it just seemed Detroit wouldn't have a shot. Backed up to their own 1 yard line, Dallas had a long way to go. On third and eight, things really looked ugly. Tony Romo dropped the ball and it appeared Detroit might get a touchdown or a safety at least. Romo somehow managed to pick the ball up and complete a pass to Terrell Owens to keep the chains moving. Two plays later, Romo once again hooked up with Owens, this time from 56 yards out, for the touchdown. Just like that Dallas led 31-30.
Needing a big play to respond to the touchdown pass, Detroit got one from an unlikely player. Jon Kitna threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day in the corner of the endzone to Mike Williams. That's right, the Mike Williams. A week after having the biggest drop of his career, Williams came up with possibly the biggest catch. The touchdown reception was from 21 yards out and was a very tough catch to make. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, so Detroit led 36-31.
Tony Romo's day once again took a turn for the worse. Saying it was one that went up and down would be an understatement as things changed so quickly. From what looked like saving the game with a TD pass to TO to the next mistake cost Dallas any chance of winning. Romo simply dropped the ball and fumbled again, this time with Detroit recovering. That gave the Lions a chance to kick a field goal and put the margin at 8 points.
With nearly 3 minutes to go in the game, Dallas still had one last shot. The Cowboys drove down the field and were eventually faced with a fourth and goal from the Detroit 6 yard line. On the final play of the game for the Cowboys, Tony Romo scrambled around looking for someone to throw to and found no one. He decided to take off and try to run the ball into the endzone but was stopped by Paris Lenon just a yard or so short.
With the ball back, Jon Kitna was able to take a knee to clinch the Lions 39-31 win over Dallas. Taking away from the fact that this cost Detroit a #1 draft pick, which I'll get to next week, this was one hell of a game for the Lions. They went out there with 17 or so players on the IR or unable to play and just did everything possible to get the win.
I don't know what it is about the liking to mess with the draft order so late in the season, but Detroit sure likes to do it. The Lions now finish the year with a 3-13 record, one that is much less than originally hoped for. Many positives can be taken out of the season even though it would seem impossible to do so. Just look at Mike Furrey. The converted wide receiver who hardly anyone heard of coming into the season had 11 catches for 102 yards and 1 touchdown today. That brings his total on the season to 98 catches and well over 1,000 yards receiving.
Much more on this win and what it exactly means for the offseason next week, plus a very early look at the draft and a look back at this season. I'm off tomorrow for New Year's Day as there is a full slate of college bowl games, most importantly the Rose Bowl. I'll be cheering my Wolverines on and don't expect to have time for any posts here at POD.
Anyways, have a Happy New Year, hopefully getting started with a Michigan win, and see you back here in 2007. I just want to say thanks to everyone who has come across Pride of Detroit in the last year and a big thanks to the folks here at SB Nation for making this expereince possible. Without them, POD would not even exist.
Until next time, thanks for reading, Happy New Year, and Go Lions!