Come Sunday, the Detroit Lions will face the Arizona Cardinals in what will be the eighth game in team history on the date of Sept. 15. Unlike last week, when the Lions had a strong history on the date of Sept. 8, Detroit doesn't play well on the 15th, especially in road games. Out of the seven games the Lions have played on Sept. 15, four were losses and one was a tie. All five of those game were played outside of Detroit.
It's fun to note that the first game in team history on Sept. 15 was played against the Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals in 1940. Hopefully Sunday's game is a better contest, as the teams battled to a scoreless tie. According to the New York Times, the game "had more of the flavor of water polo" due to rain that turned the field into a "quagmire," which forced "eight successive exchanges of punts between the two without a single intervening play" in the final frame.
After '40, the Lions dropped two in a row on the road against the Dallas Cowboys in 1968 and the Chicago Bears in 1974. The only point in mentioning the '68 Cowboys game was that it was quarterback Greg Landry's first game in the NFL. He threw 15 completions on 31 attempts for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns, accounting for much of the offense and all of Detroit's scoring. Unfortunately, Landry added 4 interceptions to help the Cowboys rout the Lions by a score of 59-13. The '74 game in Chicago was another game lacking much to note, other than the fact that the Lions scored their 9 points on a blocked punt turned safety and a touchdown. You can watch some funky 70s highlights here if you want to relive the loss.
Following the two losses, the Lions won two games in a row on Sept. 15, avenging the '74 loss against Dallas in 1985 and beating the Miami Dolphins in 1991. In '85, the Lions eked by the Cowboys thanks to solid offensive contributions by quarterback Eric Hipple -- 10 for 23 for 141 yards and 1 touchdown as well as a rushing touchdown -- and enough forced turnovers to bury Dallas by a score of 26-21. Even though the Cowboys gained 554 yards of total offense, quarterback Danny White threw 3 interceptions and the Cowboys fumbled the ball away twice. The 5 turnovers kept the Cowboys from scoring until the fourth quarter.
When Miami arrived at the Pontiac Silverdome in '91, they were looking to build on a strong '90 campaign, where they lost in the divisional round of the playoffs. But unbeknownst to everyone, the Lions were just starting their historic 1991 season and scrapped the Dolphins in a back-and-forth affair by a score of 17-13. Rodney Peete led the Lions' offensive attack with 189 yards of total offense and touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
The last two games, against the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996 and the Carolina Panthers in 2002, aren't worth talking about at length. Facing the Eagles, the Lions offense failed to keep up with the Eagles, which scored points every quarter of the game. Barry Sanders led the team with 2 rushing touchdowns, but he had only 49 yards on 16 attempts. As for '02, the game pitted the two worst teams of the 2001 season against each other, and by the end, the Panthers had doubled their win total from '01 with their second victory and left the Lions floundering in their wake (however, the Panthers ended up 7-9 on the season). In an ironic twist that seems to only happen to Detroit, former Lions quarterback Rodney Peete carved up the Lions secondary and ended the game 13 passing yards shy of the best individual performance of his career. He finished the game 21 for 32 for 210 yards, with 1 passing touchdown in the Panthers' 31-7 drubbing of the Lions. As for the Lions, when all of your scoring comes off an 11-yard Mike McMahon rushing touchdown, you should expect to be blown out by Peete and the Panthers.
But as philosopher George Santayana once said, "Those who do not know history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them." I'm sure the Lions know about their past struggles on Sept. 15, and there's no doubt in my mind that the players and coaches have been harping about it all week during team meetings. Because come Sunday, it's time for the Lions to requite their tie with the Cardinals in 1940.
Overall record on Sept. 15
'40 at Chicago Cardinals, 0-0
'68 at Dallas Cowboys, 13-59
'74 at Chicago Bears, 9-17
'85 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 26-21
'91 vs. Miami Dolphins, 17-13
'96 at Philadelphia Eagles, 17-24
'02 at Carolina Panthers, 7-31
More from Pride Of Detroit:
- Lions quotes: Friday's comments from Jim Schwartz, Gunther Cunningham
- Lions at Cardinals injury report: Nick Fairley questionable for Sunday
- CoachSpeak: Jim Schwartz on Reggie Bush and the Lions offense
- On Paper: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
- One for the road: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals