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Kitna Comeback Propels Lions to 20-17 Win in Overtime

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To open the home schedule for the 2007 season, Detroit welcomed Minnesota at Ford Field for what turned out to be a crazy and bizarre day. After a slow start on both sides, things looked bad for the Lions when Jon Kitna was knocked out of the game with a concussion. That really put Detroit at a disadvantage, but they still managed to hang tough. When all was said and done, it was Kitna’s surprise return to the game that pushed Detroit to a 20-17 win in overtime.

From the very start of this game, it was ugly as turnovers played the biggest factor. A turnover is actually how Detroit stopped a promising Minnesota drive to start the game. The Vikings were moving down the field easily before Shaun Cody had a 1-hand interception on a 3rd & 1 play. The ball was tipped up into the air by Gerald Alexander to allow Cody to pick it off.

With momentum quickly shifting to the Lions’ side, Mike Martz opened up the passing playbook and got Detroit down the field in a very simple way. All it took was a pass after pass after pass and before you knew it, the Lions were down into the redzone. Fast forward to a 3rd down at the 10-yard line and Detroit’s hot streak was ended. Jon Kitna scrambled around looking for an open target but found a Viking instead of a Lion. He just simply tried to force it into an area where no one was open, and it cost the Lions.

After trading punts, the Lions once again used a turnover to jump out in front of the Vikings, although this time the end result would be positive. Keith Smith picked off a Tarvaris Jackson pass, giving Detroit the ball in good field position. Using the passing game again, Kitna and the Lions quickly marched down the field, eventually to score the game’s first touchdown. Kitna threw a laser in between two Vikings defenders to find Roy Williams for the 9 yard score, putting the Lions on top 7-0.

As it turns out, the drive that led to the score mentioned above proved to do more harm than good. On the second play of the possession, Jon Kitna was rocked after completing a pass to Brian Calhoun and actually got a concussion from the hit. That meant that backup J.T. O’Sullivan had to come into the game, making for a very rocky second quarter and on. Although a concussion usually means you’re out of the game and out of it mentally, you’ll find out later that Kitna somehow managed to make a return.

Following the Lions TD, Minnesota got the next drive off to a great start with a 56-yard kick return. That put the Vikes in Lions territory and meant that the next 3rd & 8 play was huge. Tarvaris Jackson completed a 10-yard pass to Robert Ferguson that was enough for the first down. Really, it shouldn’t have been a completed pass at all, but the officials were incompetent enough to miss the ball bouncing off the ground before Ferguson secured it. Unfortunately for Detroit, before Rod Marinelli even had time to challenge the play, Jackson rushed to the line and spiked the ball, preventing a challenge from even being allowed, although Marinelli did try to do that anyways. With the big play, Minnesota took advantage and went down the field to score on a Tarvaris Jackson TD run. That tied the game at 7-7.

A long pass play made possible by Roy Williams set the Lions up for a late second quarter field goal. Williams caught the ball, had his helmet ripped off, and still managed to run down the field, totaling 42 yards in all. The drive basically stalled after that, but as I said, a field goal was added by Jason Hanson to give the Lions a 10-7 lead at the half.

The third quarter got off to a shaky start for both quarterbacks. First it was J.T. O’Sullivan who made a costly mistake. O’Sullivan was picked off Darren Sharper, giving Minnesota a chance to take control of the game. That wouldn’t happen, though, as the Vikings gave Detroit the ball right back on the very next play. Tarvaris Jackson threw a long pass downfield and had it picked off by Gerald Alexander, who was playing center field on it, just waiting until the ball came down into his hands. With the INT giving Detroit the ball back, J.T. O’Sullivan made up for his previous mistake. First, though, he and the Lions caught a break when a roughing the passer call on 3rd & 22 kept the drive alive. Some would say it was questionable, but O’Sullivan did get driven into the field. Either way, that eventually led to O’Sullivan finding Calvin Johnson in the endzone for a 7-yard TD shortly after. The pass simply was thrown into the air and C.J. jumped and snagged it, using his height as a big advantage.

Another long kick return would put Minnesota in great field position. This time it was Aundrae Allison who took the kickoff back, getting it 60 yards downfield to set up an eventual Ryan Longwell field goal, narrowing the Detroit lead to 17-10. The next sequence of events looked like everything was falling apart, similar to what happened in Minnesota last year when these two teams met. J.T. O’Sullivan was hit and fumbled the ball on an attempted handoff and Ray Edwards picked it up and ran it into the endzone for a touchdown. That tied the game at 17-17 and left Lions fans wondering how bad this meltdown would be.

At first glance, the meltdown looked to be enough to lose this game. O’Sullivan didn’t help things at all after getting the ball back as he threw a bad pass that was intercepted inside the Lions 5-yard line. Detroit’s defense stepped up and forced a punt, but the offense went nowhere. After another defensive stand by the Lions, it was time for a surprise. Enter Jon Kitna. Despite being knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first half, Kitna was somehow able to return in the fourth quarter to save the Lions. As soon as Kitna came back in the game, things started to look good. However, that quickly changed when Roy Williams fumbled the ball after receiving a pass and Minnesota fell on it. Another turnover? What a shocker.

Luckily for Williams, the defense again made a stop in the clutch and put the Lions in position to win the game. Kitna led Detroit down the field and set up Jason Hanson for a 48-yard field goal attempt that probably would win the game. Well, you can’t always be clutch. Hanson barely missed the field goal, and not only did it take away a possible win for the Lions, it gave Minnesota a chance to win themselves. Since the Vikings had 45 seconds to do something, they were able to get down into field position to attempt a 52-yarder for the win. The kick looked good, but hooked right at the end and bounced off the upright. It couldn’t get any closer than that. Off to overtime we go.

Minnesota won the toss and got the ball moving with their backup QB. Tarvaris Jackson was injured on the drive’s first play, meaning Brooks Bollinger had to come in the game. He actually was playing very well up until a 3rd & 8 when the snap was fumbled and Detroit recovered. With all the momentum, it was time for Detroit to end this game. Jon Kitna had a pass batted back to him and ran it for 9 yards. Then on a 3rd & 2 he scrambled for a first down. Finally, Brian Calhoun took off for a 17-yard run to put the Lions in field goal range. Wasting no time, Jason Hanson quickly ran on the field to make up for his previous miss. This time, Hanson made the kick, giving Detroit the thrilling 20-17 victory.

As I’ve already said, this game was definitely ugly. Heck, both teams looked like they were doing everything possible to lose the game, but in the end, the Lions again came through in the face of adversity to win. I would be 100% confident in saying that last year’s team would be 0-2, but with a new mindset, they are instead 2-0. That perfect record will be put on the line Sunday at Philadelphia. Kickoff is set for 1:00 ET and can be seen on FOX.