With a chance to get back into the hunt in the NFC North title race, the Detroit Lions blew another fourth-quarter lead and lost to the New York Giants in overtime on Sunday by a score of 23-20. It was merely the latest collapse for the Lions, and it eliminated them from playoff contention. Also, this loss likely ensures that a coaching change will take place for the Lions going into 2014.
As always, the Lions got the ball to start things off on Sunday and put together a decent drive before it stalled. The Lions moved the chains on third-and-2 by running Joique Bell (where was this on Monday?), and they moved the chains on third-and-9 with a 17-yard pass to Calvin Johnson. Unfortunately, Matthew Stafford was sacked for a 12-yard loss on the next third down, taking the Lions out of field goal range and forcing a Sam Martin punt.
Much like the Baltimore Ravens game, the Lions defense couldn't get off the field on the Giants' first possession on Sunday. New York moved the chains on third-and-4, third-and-10 and third-and-10 again. Finally, on third-and-8 at the Detroit 23-yard line, the Lions forced a stop, bringing the drive to a close with a 41-yard field goal attempt by Josh Brown. The kick was good, giving the Giants a 3-0 lead.
The Lions answered with a field goal of their own. Bell did an excellent job on the ground on this drive, but he was taken down 3 yards short of the first down on a screen pass. As a result, the Lions settled for a 37-yard field goal attempt, which David Akers converted to tie things up.
After a quick three-and-out by the Giants, the Lions were once again on the move after a 17-yard pass from Stafford to Joseph Fauria on third-and-17. Stafford did a great job of escaping pressure to make the play happen, and the Lions were able to get into Giants territory a couple plays later. It didn't matter, though, because Reggie Bush fumbled the ball away to the Giants on only the Lions' second play on New York's side of the field. The Giants took over near midfield after the turnover, and they eventually capitalized on the Detroit miscue with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jerrel Jernigan.
In need of something positive before halftime, the Lions tried to put together a scoring drive in the final couple minutes of the second quarter. They were stopped on third-and-1 thanks to another inaccurate pass by Stafford that should have been picked off, but the Giants gave them a free first down by jumping offside on the punt. Fast forward four plays and Stafford once again threw the ball right to a defender. This time, Justin Tuck caught the pass for an interception, leading to another Brown field goal that gave the Giants a 13-3 lead after two quarters.
The Lions opened the second half with a big stop by the defense, which forced a quick three-and-out. The special teams then made a play with Jeremy Ross taking the ensuing punt back 50 yards to the New York 30. The offense didn't let this great chance go to waste, as Stafford found Bell for 14 yards on third-and-7. A few plays later, on third-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line, Bell got the ball again and found the end zone for a touchdown. Suddenly the Lions only trailed by a score of 13-10.
After forcing another three-and-out, things were looking good for the Lions. The offense went from their own 14 to being on New York's side of the field thanks in part to a 12-yard run by Bell and a 16-yard gain by Ross on a reverse. Unfortunately, the Lions were unable to keep the drive alive after this sequence, because they picked up only 6 yards on third-and-10. As a result, they punted the ball away still down by a score of 13-10.
The Lions defense continued to dominate in the second half by making a big play on third-and-13 from the 9-yard line. Eli Manning dropped back and had nearly the Lions' entire defensive line in his face, and Nick Fairley took him down in the end zone for a safety. This cut the Lions' deficit to only a point, and they took the lead on the ensuing drive. A 16-yard pass to Kevin Ogletree really got things going, and a 9-yard pass to Fauria on third-and-2 kept the chains moving. On the very next play, Theo Riddick scored from 2 yards out to put the Lions on top. After a successful 2-point conversion that featured a catch in the end zone by Fauria, the Lions held a 20-13 lead.
It was more of the same for the Giants when they took over on their next drive. They were unable to do anything offensively, thanks in part to a fumble and an illegal substitution penalty. This put them in a third-and-14 situation, and the Lions got a stop to force another three-and-out. This was also the case after the Lions had a three-and-out of their own (thanks to a holding penalty on third-and-2). The Giants got the ball back, barely went anywhere on three plays and had to punt the ball away again.
The Lions appeared to be in a position to simply run some time off the clock and get this game closer to being over, and they tried to do that early on after getting the ball back. Unfortunately, when faced with a third-and-7, the Lions had to throw the ball and made another brutal mistake. Stafford threw a bad pass that deflected off the hands of Fauria and went right to the Giants' Will Hill, who returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, after not being able to do anything all half, the Giants were tied at 20 with the Lions.
After a quick three-and-out that featured Bell getting stuffed on third-and-1, the Lions appeared to be in trouble. They especially appeared to be in trouble after the Giants finally moved the chains with a 25-yard pass that put them in Lions territory. The defense needed to tighten things up and not let New York get a field goal, and they were indeed able to get a stop. New York couldn't get beyond the Detroit 45 and had to punt the ball away after an incompletion on third-and-10. (Thankfully, the Giants do not have a kicker with a Justin Tucker-like leg.)
The Lions unfortunately were unable to do anything after picking up a single first down on their next drive. As a result, they had to punt the ball away to the Giants, which took over at their own 37 with 50 seconds left. The Giants had hopes of getting into field goal range to attempt a last-second kick for the win, but Manning finally threw an interception on an awful pass across the middle. Glover Quin came away with the pick, and the Lions simply ran out the clock (much to the dismay of the fans in attendance) to send this game to overtime.
The Giants opened overtime with the ball after winning the toss and got a big return from Michael Cox to put it near midfield. After a 15-yard pass put the Giants at the Detroit 36-yard line, the Lions appeared to be in big trouble, but Fairley forced a fumble that was recovered by Willie Young. It looked like Andre Brown may have been down, but there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the original call, so it was Lions ball at their 28-yard line.
Unsurprisingly, the offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover. A drop on first down was followed by a holding penalty that negated a 10-yard run on second down (both mistakes courtesy of Dorin Dickerson). This led to third-and-12 and an incomplete pass, which in turn led to another punt by Martin.
The Giants took over at their own 28 and got a big play on third-and-9. Rueben Randle was all alone for a gain of 26 yards, and he picked up 6 yards a few plays later to bring up fourth-and-7 at the Detroit 42. Rather than punt the ball away or try a field goal, the Giants went for it and moved the chains with a 15-yard pass. This put them in position to win the game with a field goal, and they did just that four plays later. Brown connected from 45 yards out, giving the Giants a 23-20 victory.
At this point, there's really not much else to say about this Lions team. They choked away this game and the NFC North title, and now they will close out the season next week at the Minnesota Vikings. In reality, their season is already over since they have been eliminated from playoff contention, and now fans are simply counting down the days until Jim Schwartz is fired and we can begin the next chapter in this franchise's history.