A messed-up ending to a mess of a game

by | Sep 24, 2012 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Shaun Hill said “there was a miscommunication” and “I’ll take full responsibility for that.” Jim Schwartz said “that was a miscommunication” and “that’s my fault.” Mikel Lehsoure said, “Aw, man, it’s just… things happen.”

Things happen. There’s your marquee. One of the craziest, wildest, most poorly officiated Sunday afternoons in years, a game of huge plays, massive gains and spectacular accidents, came down, in the end, to a tiny fourth-and-1 in overtime that actually went backward – and apparently wasn’t supposed to take place at all.

Instead of trying a game-tying field goal, Schwartz sent Hill to the Titans’ 7 – “we were trying to draw them offsides,” the coach explained – and Hill either called for the snap or was surprised by the snap or who knows, maybe a leprechaun jumped in there, whatever the case, Hill tried to surge forward, was dragged backward, and the game ended – with Schwartz, the Lions players and what was left of the crowd wondering what they just had witnessed in Tennessee’s 44-41 victory.

“That was a miscommunication, that’s as clear as I’m going to get,” Schwartz said. Which is a fittingly muddled statement for this one.

Right up there with “things happen.”

And on Sunday, what didn’t happen?

Stafford injured again, but …

Here was a game that was in each team’s grasp, then came loose or was pried loose or was swatted loose or smacked loose, a game finally tied by a Hail Mary touchdown in the last second of regulation – the kind of play that never works, except it worked.

But even before Titus Young saw that 46-yard heave swatted away and coming into his grasp, even before he dove for it and fell into the end zone and the Lions went crazy – 41-41! – even before all that, this Sunday already had witnessed: a lateraled punt returned for a touchdown, a kickoff returned 105 yards for a touchdown, a stripped fumble returned for a touchdown and a reception stolen off the back of a Lion for a touchdown.

It had seen Matthew Stafford chasing a tackle and pulling up lame; punter Ben Graham chasing a tackle and pulling up lame; Jason Hanson doing two jobs; and Leshoure gaining 100 yards in his first real day of NFL work.

Big plays? Most games, if there’s one 60-yard adventure, it’s the big highlight. Tennessee had five plays of more than 60 yards alone! The Lions scored 18 unanswered points, then the Titans scored 21 unanswered, then the Lions scored two touchdowns in 18 seconds, thanks to an onsides kick and Hill’s Hail Mary to Young.

Wait. Did we say Hill? Yes. Because Stafford pulled something in his leg – “I don’t know what yet, I have to get an MRI,” he said later – and normally, losing your star quarterback is the ONLY story of a game.

Except when you’re playing a Russian novel.

“I’ve been around a lot of crazy games, I don’t know if I’ve ever been around one like that,” Schwartz admitted.

And I’m just giving you the highlights here, folks. I can’t tell you the whole thing. We have to conserve paper.

Going the wrong way, but …

I will say this. Amid the spectacular plays and the terrible officiating. (If this wasn’t a howl to settle the labor dispute, nothing is; the replacement referees actually screwed up 12 yards on a critical placement, eventually handing the Titans a 26-yard field goal try in OT instead of a 38-yarder, with a kicker who already had missed twice. This one, he made. Who knows if he’d have made the longer one?) Still, for all that noise, the Lions did not deserve to win. Not playing as badly as they did.

Too many dropped balls. Too many penalties. And where is the ballyhooed pass rush? In 68-plus minutes, Detroit registered one quarterback hit. One. Not a sack, mind you. A hit. Jake Locker had so much time back there, he coined a new nickname: “The No Hurt Locker.”

“It’s what we have to do, it’s what we need to do, it’s what we’re expected to do,” said end Kyle Vanden Bosch of the lack of pressure. It’s what they didn’t do Sunday.

Instead the defense committed four offsides penalties. That’s going the wrong way. Which on the final play, is what killed the Lions’ final hopes. That fast snap never should have finished it. But a backup quarterback, overtime, a crazy day. And as Leshoure said, things happen.

Schwartz was right to take the blame. Hill was big to do so. And they could all be protecting Dominic Raiola, the center. Who knows or cares at this point? The bottom line remains: After three games, the Lions have a losing record at 1-2, and this was one they should have had.

The most commonly heard phrase over the PA system Sunday was: “The previous play is under review.”

For the Lions, that applies to Sunday – now, and for some restless nights to come.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!