Needing a win to avenge last week's disappointing loss against Arizona, the Lions faced off yesterday against the Giants in a midseason battle for a spot in the wild card. Sure, the season isn't really even close to ending so this game doesn't clinch a spot or anything remotely close to that, but getting an advantage in the wild card now is important. In the long run, should both of these teams be contending for a playoff spot towards the end of this season, we probably will look back to yesterday and see that it did have a big impact.
Unfortunately for Detroit, that impact was a negative one. The Lions couldn't get their offense going until late in the 4th quarter, and by that time it was too late to make up any ground as the mistakes just kept piling up. In the end, Detroit had a shot at winning the game, but the Giants held on for a 16-10 victory. The loss drops the Lions' record to 6-4, and with the Packers coming to the Motor City on Thanksgiving, just days from now, Detroit will have to quickly get things going in the right direction.
If you thought the offense was bad last week, then that wasn't really anything. Yes, the running game wasn't in the negatives, but after a solid first drive, Detroit again seemed to abandon the run. Although balance is important, as is establishing the run game, I really don't like the way Mike Martz has started off these last two games. I know that against Arizona the Lions scored a touchdown in only a few plays, but they had a shortened field. Against NY, it was all run on the first drive, then nearly all pass on the second. There's got to be a balance where you don't just try one thing over and over, but instead you need to mix it up on every drive.
Anyways, the Giants offense started off slow as well, but on their second drive, they were able to drive down the field to eventually kick a 28-yard field goal. Just as we have seen so many times before this season, it was a combination of various short passes that moved the Giants down the field. Against the Cover 2 that usually will always work, so the Lions just needed to contain, which they did manage to do for most of the rest of the game.
Following a three and out by the Lions, New York again got the ball moving. They wouldn't even have to go very far after a solid punt return, so a short field looked as though it meant for more troubles for the Lions. That changed, though, after the defense that always is looking to create a turnover caught a break. After completing a mass that would've moved the chains on 3rd down, the receiver lost the ball and the opportunistic Lions defense was there to fall on it. Although nothing would come from the turnover offensively, at least the score was still only 3-0.
As things headed toward the half, the Lions were starting to move the ball. On 3rd and 3, Jon Kitna completed a pass to Shaun McDonald, who appeared to be tackled a couple of yards short of the first down marker. He was never ruled down initially, though, and because of that he was able to spin forward for the first down. New York challenged the call and despite none of the replays showing clear evidence that his knee was down, the play was reversed and Detroit had to punt. Taking the slight momentum Detroit had away, the Giants turned the defensive stop into a touchdown of its own right before the end of the half. Eli Manning threw a pass to Brandon Jacobs for a gain of 10 yards and the score, making it a 10-0 Giants lead at the half.
Starting the second half down by 10, the Lions had to get something going if they wanted to avoid another game of catch up like they played in Arizona. With that in mind, the defense came up with a big stop to force a three and out, and the offense did finally get going. After a pair of catches by Roy Williams and a 20-yarder by Shaun McDonald, Detroit found itself in NY territory. On 3rd and 7, the Lions would come up just a yard short of getting a first down even though Calvin Johnson tried to stretch out for the marker. Rather than gamble, the Lions decided that getting points on the board was more important, so Jason Hanson came in and kicked a 42-yard field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ahmad Bradshaw took the kick back 68 yards to the Detroit 34-yard line. With great field position again, the defense would have to work with a short field. Just as before, a turnover would solve that problem. Brandon Jacobs had the ball knocked loose by Paris Lenon, and Jared DeVries fell on it to give Kitna and the offense a shot at tying the game. Once again, just as before, that wouldn't happen, but this time the Lions actually did move the ball. Jason Hanson was put in position to attempt a 52-yard field goal, but the kick was just barely tipped, making it come up short of the goalposts. After getting the ball back and putting together a solid drive of their own, the Giants converted another field goal, putting the lead back to 10 points at 13-3.
Hoping to rebound after a disappointing series of events, things only got worse for the Lions. Jon Kitna threw a pass into heavy coverage, and although Roy Williams got a hand on it, he only managed to tip it up into the air, allowing it to be intercepted. Using the momentum of the interception, the Giants went down the field and kicked a 20-yard field goal after the Lions defense kept NY out of the endzone.
After the two teams traded punts, there was 5:52 to go and Detroit trailed by 13. It was make it or break it time, and the Lions delivered. Needing only 4 plays, the Lions went down the field 73 yards to get within 6 of the Giants. Each play was a pass, and on top of that, every pass was completed to a different receiver. The sequence of plays went like this: Kitna to Furrey for 9 yards, Kitna to McDonald for 14 yards, and then Kitna to Walters for 19 yards. To cap it all off, Calvin Johnson showed why he is already turning into a great receiver as he made a spectacular catch to score a touchdown from 35 yards out. With two defenders on him, C.J. leaped into the air and took the ball away from the defender that had a shot to make a play. As he made the catch, he fell backwards into the endzone and despite landing on his injured back, held on for the TD.
On the proceeding drive by New York, it would be three and out, meaning the Lions offense would get the ball back with 2:25 to go just needing a touchdown and an extra point to take the lead. When Detroit did get the ball back, they moved it up to their own 49-yard line following a roughing the passer penalty. With more than enough time to score the touchdown, Jon Kitna acted like this was 2006 and made an absolutely bonehead play. Kitna was under pressure and rather than throw the ball away, he heaved it downfield. That would've been a great play had the receiver been Roy Williams or Calvin Johnson as it was a jump ball situation, but since Shaun McDonald was the intended WR, the pass was picked off. The interception took place right around the goal line and was ruled as a touchback, giving the Giants the ball at the 20-yard line.
Still with enough time to get a stop (1:54 to be exact), the Lions defense just needed to force one more three and out. After the next three Giants plays, things were looking good as the defense accomplished its mission. They held the Giants running-wise on the first two plays, and with two timeouts called not much time ran off the clock. Then on third down, with a chance to force Detroit to use its final timeout, the Giants passed the ball and the throw to Amani Toomer was incomplete. Following the punt, Detroit took over 68 yards away from possibly winning the game. A false start would begin the drive, but that was quickly forgotten after a pass to Shaun McDonald was completed for a gain of 27. Following a short 3-yard catch by Kevin Jones (got out of bounds to stop the clock), Detroit had only 57 yards to go and 56 seconds to get there. With things actually looking good despite the pressure situation, all of that hope would quickly come crashing down. Jon Kitna threw a pass in the direction of McDonald again, who was actually fairly open, but this time McDonald couldn't make the catch. Instead, it deflected off his hands and into the air, giving the Giants an interception to end the game and give NY a 16-10 victory.
Before everyone proclaims that the end of the world is coming, although I would agree on some levels, let's not panic just yet. I would say my finger is about to hit the panic button, but I'm going to give the Lions one more game before doing that. The reason for that is because even though they took 3 and a half quarters off offensively, Detroit still could've won this game. Had it not been for a few specific plays, especially with the way the offense was moving at the end of the game, we could be talking about a win right now. Unfortunately, we're not, so it's time to move on. Normally you like to think about the game from Sunday for a couple days before looking ahead to next week's opponent, but for Detroit, that isn't possible with Green Bay coming to Ford Field on Thursday. The annual Thanksgiving Day game will start at 12:30 p.m. ET and is on FOX. Although GB has looked amazing this season, let's not give up hope just yet as hopefully on Thanksgiving night, we all have something to be thankful for.