A franchise known for the horrors of continuous failure has plenty of painful memories that oddly bring feelings of nostalgia to the bitter, yet prideful Lions fan.
Oct 18, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Fans cheer during the game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Lions won 37-34 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
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The Lions are one of the most heartbreaking, agonizing, maddeningly inconsistent franchises in the history of professional sports. But, fans don’t run from it, they embrace the losing like a badge of honor. The thing that unites them all is their razor sharp memory of each time they’ve been screwed over as fans. Each coaching mistake. Each blown call. Each unfathomably poor performance by the team. Each time they’ve felt genuine optimism only for it to be thrown in their face by the neverending reality of being a Detroit Lions fan. So, with it being Halloween, I’ve decided to write three of the most unforgettable losses of the past ten years. I know you sure haven’t forgotten them.
3. The Illegal Bat out of Hell in Seattle.
Oct 5, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor (31) forces a fumble by Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
After a fierce defensive battle on the road, against the Super Bowl participant Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Detroit was driving down the field for a game-winning touchdown. Matt Stafford hit Calvin Johnson on a drag route in the final minute, Johnson took the ball towards the goal line, launched into the end zone for a touchdown, only to have the ball punched out by Kam Chancellor. The loose ball bounced and Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright batted it out of the back of the end zone. As you all now know, it’s illegal to bat the ball out in that situation, and Detroit, by the letter of the law, should have been awarded the ball with a first down near the goal line.
Instead, incompetent refs – or crooked ones, depending on your conspiracy-theorist level – blatantly disregarded the penalty and awarded the Seahawks the ball, and ballgame. To make it worse, most fans didn’t know the rule, but ESPN had an officiating expert come on television and explain the call and why the Lions got screwed. Several other experts came out and agreed and this story became the biggest thing in sports for the week. Neither the nation’s pity nor league’s apology letter would help Detroit, and the team would have to suck it up and move on during another wasted 7-9 season in 2015.
2. Dallas Playoff Home Cooking.
Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Pete Morelli (referee) makes a call during the game with the Dallas Cowboys playing against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Cowboys linebacker, Brandon Hitchens, committed a blatant defensive pass interference against tight end Brandon Pettigrew during the 4th quarter of a Wild Card Playoff game in 2014 at Dallas Stadium. The penalty occurred on a critical 3rd-and-1, with the Lions leading in the fourth quarter. The officials called the penalty, they moved the ball to the 1st-down spot, and — once again, depending on your conspiracy-theorist level — something possessed the referees to overturn the blatant penalty.
The flag was picked up. The ball was moved back. And a poor, unclear explanation was given by the officiating staff. The Lions were forced to punt the ball and eventually lost the game, after a great season. The country paid attention this time as well. Even President Barack Obama mentioned he’d be pretty aggravated if he were a Lions fan. There was some poetic justice in the Cowboys losing on a controversial non-catch the following week against the Packers. Not that it helped the Lions.
1. Packers beat Lions to complete 0-16 Season in 2008.
Dec 28, 2008; Green Bay, WI, USA; Fans hold up signs celebrating the Detroit Lions 0-16 season during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Lions 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Hey, at least the Lions got Matthew Stafford out of this headache of a season right? Eight years removed, it is still hard to wash away the memory of the Packers’ backups embarrassing the Lions’ starters. Detroit blew several games that season, but the Packers game was painful. It was like a slap in the face that you knew you’d never hear the end of. The Lions lost EVERY game and it was capitalized with this 31-21 drubbing by a young Aaron Rodgers and the division-rival Packers at Lambeau.
In one bright spot, Calvin Johnson would have a 100-yard game. This was the last game of Rod Marinelli’s tenure as head coach and the beginning of the Martin Mayhew-era as general manager. The Lions became a national punchline on late-night shows and sports programming everywhere. There have been MANY low moments, but this game was a culmination of nearly a decade of incompetence by former GM Matt Millen. No team has ever been as bad as that team, that year. Happy Halloween!
Follow SideLion Editor Matt Urben on Twitter @MattUrben88