The Detroit Lions were set to play their second preseason game this week, if not for COVID-19 leading to the cancellation of preseason this year. Week 2 is usually the week where all of the starters make their first appearances of the year, even if only for a drive or two.
Instead, this week, we are going to look into the past. Detroit was set to take on the New York Jets this week, so we will use this opportunity to look at the last time these two teams met in a game that was so shocking it has likely burned itself into the minds of Lions fans.
September 10th, 2018 — Week 1
It was an exciting time for Lions fans. New head coach Matt Patricia had Super Bowl pedigree and was planning on bringing a taste of his past successes with the New England Patriots to the Motor City.
The team was coming off of two straight winning seasons—each with a 9-7 record—and looked prime to take the step from playoff race participant to Super Bowl contender. A new era was underway under the bright lights of “Monday Night Football.”
The game could not have started off any better for the Detroit Lions. Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was playing his first career game and looked flustered from the start. After running a play action on the first snap from scrimmage, he turned around and realized he was immediately under pressure. The young quarterback panicked and threw an ill-advised cross-field pass. Lions safety Quandre Diggs was right there, intercepting the ball and taking it for a touchdown on the defense’s first play of the season.
New York would not stay down for long, though. The teams traded punts on their next possessions, but former Lions receiver Andre Roberts came back to haunt his old team. The special teams ace returned a punt 43 yards, setting up the Jets offense deep in Lions territory.
A few good throws by Darnold got his confidence back and quickly got the Jets offense near the Lions goal line. Running back Isaiah Crowell would finish the job with a 6-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
Things would quickly derail for Detroit. Quarterback Matthew Stafford would quickly throw his first interception of the season on the next possession. A deep pass to Marvin Jones Jr. floated on him, and a big leap from cornerback Morris Claiborne snagged the pass, setting up the Jets offense.
New York would take the lead on a field goal on the ensuing possession. Detroit had an opportunity to tie the game—only because Kenny Golladay forced and recovered a fumble after another Stafford interception—when they were up next, but kicker Matt Prater had a rare miss from 55 yards out.
The teams would trade punts once again. But when the Jets got the ball back they struck quickly. Lions corner Nevin Lawson had a mental lapse in zone coverage, letting speedster Robby Anderson zip by him for a free pass to the end zone. Darnold would find his receiver for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Suddenly, it felt like blood was in the water for New York.
New York looked set to take their 17-7 advantage into halftime, but Stafford finally got going. The Lions quarterback strung together a few good passes to quickly and efficiently get his team downfield, setting up Prater for a 21-yard field goal. Detroit would go into the half down just seven points, with the ball starting with them after the break.
Stafford came out of the half on fire. The quarterback drove the team 80 yards in four plays—completing all four of his attempted passes—finishing the run off with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate.
Just like that, the game was tied. In a matter of minutes of game time, the Jets lead had evaporated. Despite an overall sloppy performance up to that point, the Lions were poised to take the lead. Stafford was heating up. Things were finally coming together for Detroit, and they certainly believed they would be able to march to victory from here on out as the more talented team.
Any hope Detroit would have had at this point was quickly extinguished, though. Darnold would quickly retake the lead with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Enunwa on the ensuing drive.
Then things entirely imploded. Stafford threw an errant pass to running back Theo Riddick, which linebacker Darron Lee (who had a career game) snagged and returned for a 36-yard pick-six. New York’s lead grew to 14, the largest it had been all game.
Detroit got the ball back but went three-and-out. To add injury to insult, Stafford suffered from an injury scare on second down, causing back up Matt Cassel to come in for a play and throw an incomplete pass. Sam Martin’s punt was returned 78 yards for a touchdown by Roberts, bringing the Jets’ quickly-rising lead to 21.
It only would get worse for the Lions. Lee would intercept Stafford once again on Detroit’s next possession, setting his team up for a field goal that would make the score 41-17. Somehow out of nowhere, the Jets had absolutely beat the Lions into submission.
It was not over yet, though. Detroit actually got a drive going on their next possession. Unfortunately, Prater missed again, this time from 44 yards out. Prater is a legendary kicker who has kicked in 187 career games. This game proved to be only one of seven times in his now 13-year career where he missed two field goals in the same game.
Two plays after the missed field goal, Detroit would be embarrassed once again. Crowell would torch the defense for a 62-yard touchdown run.
The Jets had scored 31 points in a single quarter. They would take a 48-17 lead, burying Detroit. A night that had started with so much promises ended in disaster.
No points were scored in a boring fourth quarter. Cassel would end up finishing the game for the Lions, completing only two of his six pass attempts on the day. The game would end with Detroit being absolutely throttled and embarrassed in front of the national audience.
Detroit’s chances to have success this season seemed dead from Week 1. All of the hope people had for the Patricia-era were snuffed out after only one game. A terror of a night—one of the worst for the franchise in nearly a decade—that would set the tone for the rest of the season.
The Lions would lose again a week later, but put together a masterful performance in Week 3 when they were on prime time the next week. They never could quite shake the sour taste this game left in their mouth, and they ended their year in last place in the division with a 6-10 record.
New York’s season opener turned out to be an aberration for their 2018 team. Darnold was horrible for the rest of the season, and they would end the year with just four wins.