by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

And now for the Lions’ newest weapon:


“The good Lord did it,” said Luther Ellis.

“I know I found religion,” said Brett Perriman.

“Somebody wanted us to have a break,” said Van Malone.

What they were talking about, of course, was the last play of Sunday’s game, a play that had “fade to black” written all over it. The Seattle Seahawks were lined up for a very makable 42-yard field goal that would have sent the Lions to their fifth straight loss, swallowed their meager playoff hopes, and assured them a spot in the Waste Of Talent Hall of Fame.

If that won’t get you to church, what will?

So here they were, two seconds left, fans halfway to the Silverdome parking lot, Wayne Fontes holding his chin with that hangdog expression, looking like Jackie Gleason watching Alice destroy his bowling ball.

On the sidelines, quarterback Don Majkowski slid over to Barry Sanders.

“When he misses it,” Majkowski said, optimistically, “just give me a little five and let’s take it to the locker room.”

Hey. If you can’t feel cocky, act cocky.

Of course, there wasn’t much the Lions could really do about Seattle’s kick — except pray for the Seahawks to mess up. This is probably not what the Good Lord had in mind when He encouraged us to seek Him out:

“Now I lay me down to sleep

“I pray the kicker trips on his feet.”

Just the same, you take what you get. And so the Seahawks snapped the ball, fans bit their lips, the snap was high and the kicker, Todd Peterson — a guy who tried out with 13 teams in two years — rushed his motion.

The ball rose. It appeared to go straight.

Then it hooked.

“Wide right,” Perriman would beam, “just like Miami-Florida State.”

Yes. Except that game was well-played.

Hey, if you can’t be good . . .

Lions win. A game they probably should have lost. A game they have no business crowing over. But a win just the same. Considering some of the weirdo disasters that have befallen this team this year — a Hail Mary touchdown, a quarterback injured in practice, interceptions dropped because the sun was in the player’s eyes — you figure they were due for some good fortune.

“I’m telling you, it was the man upstairs,” gushed Elliss. “That ball was going straight, and it just went — boop! — to the right, and we won! He wanted us to win!”

Hmm. We had “The Miracle of the Meadowlands.” Maybe this is “The Shank in the Silverdome.”

Personally, I think God has more important things to do than worry about a Lions game, although it does require divine patience to watch this team.

And it feels as if they’ve been wandering in the desert for 40 years.

And many times, when we watch the Lions’ secondary, we are moved to exclaim, “God help us!”

Still, better to leave the Almighty out of it — lest any of us get hit with a lightning bolt — and call it what it was:


Overdue luck. Welcome luck. But still luck. The fact is, prior to that kick, the Lions had all but bent over, put their heads in the guillotine, and handed Seattle the cord. The Seahawks’ final drive began on their 20. Yet they converted four first downs — with a backup quarterback and an offense lacking a single recognizable name — and on a crucial fourth- and-10, they completed a pass, over Bennie Blades, 17 yards to tight end Carlester Crumpler. To make things worse, Blades was called for holding.

If Seattle were a better team, that would have been the game. The Lions were sagging and ready to drop. Already, the Detroit defense had made a substitute running back named Lamar Smith look more like Emmitt Smith, surrendering more yards to him (148) than the Seahawks did to Sanders (134). And Detroit had failed to pick up even one of three Seattle fumbles.

But sometimes the fates are with you. I wouldn’t make a habit of hoping the other guy screws up, but it worked Sunday.

“If we lost today,” Perriman admitted, “it would have been time to pack up the bags and start playing for pride.”

Who deserves the credit? Who else

Of course, that holds for next week, too. Maybe that’s why Wayne Fontes
— who is getting more withdrawn as the season goes on — decided that this win should speak for itself. So he cut off his postgame comments after a single statement thanking the fans. Considering many of them booed the whole game, I’m not sure why he was thanking them. But Fontes is amazing. He’s the only coach I’ve seen who is open after losses and angry after wins. As in everything else, he’s a little bit backward here.

But then, perhaps he knows, deep down, that he has little to be proud of in this victory. The defense surrendered 378 yards — much of it to a backup running back — and his pooch punt-coverage team looks like something out of Abbott and Costello.

Wait. Let me say something great about the Lions: Barry Sanders. He’s the reason they won. He did more with 16 plays than the rest of the offense did all game. Without him, they’re history long before that final kick.

“We were lucky, let’s face it,” said Majkowski. “But the locker room is so up now. It’s amazing.

“One win is all it takes.”

Actually, Don, it’s going to take about five wins in five games.

Prayer books, anyone?


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!