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Lions Put Up a Fight But Fall Short in 31-21 Loss to Colts

Coming into today, it was expected that the Colts would dismantle the Lions in a way similar to the 2004 Thanksgiving meeting that resulted in a 41-9 win for Indy. After all, the Colts were on a six-game winning streak and the Lions, well, were 0-13. Peyton Manning threw 6 touchdowns four years ago on Thanksgiving against the Lions, and I expected a repeat performance today.

The Lions, however, surprised everyone and played a great game by their standards. Although they got down early, the Lions made a comeback and even tied the game at 21 in the fourth quarter. In the end, though, the more talented and better coached team came away with the victory. Of course, that team was the Colts. Indy answered the Lions' game-tying touchdown with a TD of their own and then followed it up with a field goal in the final minute. The Lions simply ran out of time and luck, leading to a 31-21 win for the Colts.

1st Quarter

  • The Colts slowly worked their way down the field on the game's opening drive. The Lions did manage to hold them to 4th and 1, but a Peyton Manning pass to Dallas Clark moved the chains. Manning and Clark would hook up a lot during this game, and this pass and catch allowed Dominic Rhodes to score from a yard out on the very next play.
  • After the Lions went three and out, they caught a break on Nick Harris' punt. The punt bounced off of Keiwan Ratliff, who was being blocked by Ramzee Robinson. Anthony Cannon recovered the fumble, giving the Lions the ball at Indy's 35-yard line. The Colts did challenge, hoping that the ball didn't hit off Ratliff first, but the call was upheld.
  • The Lions went three and out once again (this time thanks in part to a false start penalty). Since they were already in field goal range, Jason Hanson was able to come out and kick a 51-yarder to trim the Colts' lead down to 4. Hanson's field goal set an NFL record for the most kicks from 50+ yards out. Hanson tied that record on Thanksgiving and broke it today. It was previously held by Morton Anderson.
  • Following a Colts punt, the Lions started moving the ball effectively thanks mainly to Kevin Smith. Smith ran for 11 yards to start the drive and then went for 25 more only a few plays later. After a 0-yard gain by Rudi Johnson and an incompletion, John Standeford picked up 16 to keep the drive alive, at least for the time being.

2nd Quarter

  • Kevin Smith had the ball knocked out of his hands on the first play of the second quarter. The fumble was recovered by the Colts, putting an end to a very promising drive.
  • The Colts were unable to capitalize off the turnover and were forced to punt for the second straight drive.
  • Things went no differently for the Lions when they got the ball back. An illegal contact penalty did move the chains for the Lions once, but that was about the only positive thing that happened on this drive. On 3rd and 14, the Lions ran a draw play, and although it did pick up 9 yards, it was angering to see that kind of play-calling.
  • The Colts got the ball back after a Lions punt with great field position. Even so, the Lions' defense stepped it up for the third straight drive and appeared to have another stop. Unfortunately, Dewayne White got called for an unnecessary roughness penalty that gave the Colts an automatic first down. From then on Manning simply passed the ball down the field until Chad Simpson took it in from 2 yards out to give Indy a 14-3 lead.
  • Surprisingly, the Lions answered the Colts TD with one of their own. In fact, they scored very quickly. On a play-action, Michael Gaines was wide open for a gain of 33 yards. After a false start penalty backed the Lions up, Calvin Johnson caught a pass on a quick slant and took off. He raced pass the Colts' secondary and managed to leap into the end zone for a touchdown. The TD went for 33 yards and made this a 14-10 game with only three and a half minutes left in the half.
  • Unlike the last drive, the Lions went back to their old ways and did what we all expected. Peyton Manning led the Colts down the field in a hurry up offense and put another touchdown on the scoreboard rather quickly. A 24-yard pass to Dallas Clark, who had a career day, put the Colts inside the 5. Then, Clark caught a pass from 3 yards out two plays later for another Colts touchdown.
  • The Lions had around 40 seconds to cut into the lead before the half, but they managed the clock very poorly. Not only did they have to waste a timeout after running the ball on first down, Kevin Smith didn't get out of bounds on a short pass. He easily could have stepped out, but he tried to fight for extra yardage and was tackled inbounds. The clock ran out and the Colts went into the locker room with a 21-10 lead.

3rd Quarter

  • The Lions didn't do much to start the second half and were forced to punt. Thankfully, though, Keiwan Ratliff made another mistake on the punt return. He was hit by Casey FitzSimmons and fumbled, and Corey Smith fell on the ball to give the Lions great field position yet again.
  • Although the Lions started at Indianapolis' 21, all they got out of the drive was one first down and a field goal. Hanson easily made the kick from 30 yards out, making this an 8-point game.
  • The Colts looked like they were going to add to their lead on the next drive, but a penalty took them out of field goal range and forced them to punt. John Standeford nearly made a terrible mistake by fielding the punt after it bounced inside the 10-yard line, but nothing disastrous happened.
  • The Lions started moving the ball on the ground and in the air. They had a nice strategy going where they threw the ball on first down and let Kevin Smith pick up the first on second or (in one case) third down. Then, a big pass play to Calvin Johnson changed everything. Johnson made a leaping grab on a jump ball type of throw downfield for a gain of 33 yards, putting the Lions in position to score when the fourth quarter got underway.

4th Quarter

  • Kevin Smith ran for gains of 9 and 12 yards before he eventually ran into the end zone from 1 yard out to score a touchdown. The 12-yard gain came on 3rd and 1 and was actually an option play where Dan Orlovsky pitched the ball before taking a hit. The TD run put the Lions a 2-point conversion away from tying the game, so they obviously went for it. Orlovsky rolled out to the right side and threw a pass back to Casey FitzSimmons on the left side of the field. FitzSimmons avoided one defender and ran into the end zone to tie the game at 21.
  • The Colts weren't about to let the winless Lions shock the world, so they quickly went down the field and scored the go-ahead touchdown. A 39-yard pass to Reggie Wayne put the Colts at the 1-yard line, and Dominic Rhodes punched the ball into the end zone on the very next play for the score.
  • Now trailing yet again, the Lions really needed to make something happen since time was limited. Although there were over five minutes left in the game, I had a bad feeling once the drive stalled and they had to punt. We've seen this sort of situation play out before, and unfortunately it was no different today.
  • The Colts got the ball back, drove down the field, and kicked a field goal from 31 yards out with only 39 seconds left in the game. A much needed miracle nearly happened when Chad Simpson fumbled the ball on 3rd down, but Indy recovered it. It looked like a Lions player fell on it, but he had it wrestled away in the pile if he ever even had full possession of it.
  • Now trailing by 10 points, the Lions needed a few miracles to happen to even tie this game. Just as expected, no miracles occurred, and the Lions actually fumbled the ball away on the first play of the drive. Calvin Johnson made a catch for a gain of 11 but lost control of the ball. Indianapolis recovered, clinching the 31-21 win for the Colts.

The Lions did put up a hell of an effort and looked like they were finally going to pull off the upset. They made a fourth quarter comeback and had momentum on their side. Unfortunately, just as we have seen in the past, the defense collapsed and the offense was unable to score any more points. The Colts knew that they had to run out the clock and make it a two-possession game, and that's exactly what they did. A fumble nearly gave the Lions a chance to have a shot at tying the game, but as usual, the bounce went in the opponent's favor.

The 1976 Buccaneers are no longer the only 0-14 team in NFL history, as the Lions now have that same record. Their final home game of the season will be against the Saints a week from now. Then, in the season finale, the Lions will travel to Green Bay to play the Packers. Both New Orleans and Green Bay are out of playoff contention, so hopefully the Lions will be able to find a way to win one of these games. They already have tied for the worst record in the history of the NFL, but they still have a chance to win a game and be second-worst.

Kickoff for the Saints game is set for 1 p.m. ET on FOX. The game will likely be blacked out just as most of the home games this season, so make sure to check out Pride of Detroit for live updates next Sunday.

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