MINNEAPOLIS — He did it with mirrors, right? He was air-dropped in by helicopter? Wait. I know — he was disguised in a Vikings uniform the first three quarters, then ripped off the purple on that first play of the fourth. That’s it? Something like that? There has to be an explanation for how wide open Herman Moore was on that one incredible play, Halloween night, when the weirdness began and didn’t stop until the Lions had a strange, questionable, but ultimately huge come-from-behind victory.
“When I saw him there, for a split second I said to myself, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not really seeing this, am I?’ ” Rodney Peete admitted afterward.
“And then?” he was asked.
“And then I said, ‘Please, don’t overthrow it.’ “
Can you blame him? Here was Peete, scrambling back near his own end zone, trailing by two touchdowns, seemingly in quicksand with the Minnesota defense, and suddenly, he looks downfield, and — whoa! — there was Moore, maybe 40 yards away, as alone as a streaker at a religious convention. Moore had enough time to read a Russian novel. Instead, he simply waved his arms, and waved his arms — and, as he later put it, “Thank goodness I have long arms.”
Peete threw it.
Moore caught it.
That started it. Moore went 93 yards without a shadow of an opposing player infringing on his space. He was more alone than Macaulay Culkin. He crossed the goal line and had to wait a few hours for someone to join him.
Hey. I knew it was Halloween. I didn’t know you got to be invisible.
Moore’s touchdown didn’t win the game. It didn’t put the Lions ahead. But make no mistake, it started the avalanche. It made the Lions believe anything was possible.
And they just wove that fact into the biggest win of their season. Moore’s TD reception tuned in victory Understand that prior to that pass, the Lions had completed one of the ugliest quarters in their history — and that’s some history. They ran only 12 plays, threw two interceptions, and had five penalties.
They gave up 10 points.
They were losing, 27-13. Music was blaring over the loudspeakers. All the weirdos here for Halloween were pointing and screaming in their devil, leprechaun and monster costumes. It seemed certain the Lions were about to be swallowed by the Vikings’ top-rated defense, as many had predicted.
But everything turned on Moore’s play. You could hear it in the dying crowd. You could see it in the suddenly-buoyant Detroit sidelines. They were suddenly inspired. And they did what good teams must do when they smell fate coming their way.
They made plays.
The defense made plays, stopping Minnesota’s ensuing drive.
The special teams made plays, with Vernon Turner busting the punt return for 53 yards.
And Rodney Peete made plays. Something was happening to this often-criticized quarterback. As bad as he looked in the third quarter, he looked that good in the fourth. He was dropping back with confidence, planting, finding receivers in the teeth of the best defense in football. He took charge. That is the best way of putting it. He took charge.
The Lions earned a field goal, to close within 27-23. The defense came back glue-like, sacking Sean Salisbury — thanks to Kelvin Pritchett — and forcing a three-and-out punt.
And once again, Peete went to work. He hit Aubrey Matthews for 18 yards and Willie Green for 11, and Rodney Holman for 11. And, all of a sudden, it was fourth down, ball on the Vikings’ 12-yard line, the crowd roaring, the game clock ticking down the final minute, and the two teams that threaten to rule the Central Division knocking on destiny’s door, asking “trick or treat?”
The answer came quickly. Call it Weirdness, Part II. Peete looked to the end zone, and fired to his receiver, Brett Perriman, who dove, along with cornerback Anthony Parker.
The place went nuts.
The place went silent. Interference wasn’t fault of our receiver
“He definitely interfered with me,” Perriman said. “As soon as I went down I looked at the referee. I saw him reaching for his back pocket. And for a second, I thought, what’s taking him so long? He’s not gonna give it to me?”
He gave it. It may or may not have been correct. Replays showed that the play was questionable. The flag was surely late. And often, on plays like that, when in doubt, don’t call a penalty. If you were a Minnesota fan, you’d be steaming this morning, and that’s after kicking your TV set all night.
But sometimes the breaks go against you, and sometimes they go your way. The important thing is, when they go your way, don’t give them back.
The Lions didn’t. They pushed Derrick Moore into the end zone on the next play, and the win was theirs, 30-27.
Strange? You bet it was strange.
The Lions — whose offense was suspect — scored 30 points on the best defense in football. Barry Sanders was more effective as a receiver than a rusher. Flags came flying out late. Defenders made stupid mistakes.
And Herman Moore will be replaying that 93-yard scene for a long time.
“I could see Rodney’s face when he spotted me. His eyes got big, real big. And after he threw it, he had that look like, ‘Is this really happening?’ “
The Lions are 6-2.
A lot of fans are having that same reaction.