Lions mount stunning rally, then fall in OT

BY foxsports • September 23, 2012

The game went from unusual to kind of weird to very, very bizarre. Emotions ranged from desperation to elation and finally, for the Detroit Lions, complete exasperation.

This was just not normal for the NFL.

The Lions scored two touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of the fourth quarter, only to lose 44-41 on Sunday to the Tennessee Titans on a failed quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches in overtime.

“I’ve been around a lot of crazy games,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said during his postgame news conference at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been around one like that.”

The wacky day came down to a fourth-and-inches play inside the Tennessee 10-yard line.

Center Dominic Raiola snapped the ball before the rest of the Lions’ offensive line moved. Shaun Hill, who had replaced an injured Matthew Stafford late in regulation, tried to get the first down on a quarterback sneak but got stopped for a loss.

The logical question: Why not kick a field goal to tie the score and continue with overtime?

“That was a miscommunication,” Schwartz said. “We were going to try to draw them off-sides. The crowd was loud. If they didn’t jump, we were going to take the timeout (and kick the field goal).  

"The ball ended up getting snapped. We need to, obviously, make sure that all 11 guys get the calls right there.”

Kelvin Pritchett, who played for the Lions from 1991-94 and 1999-2004, was highly critical of Schwartz during a postgame show on Detroit’s FOX affiliate.

“I fault him for making that decision,” Pritchett said. “He is paid a lot of money to make big-time decisions and made the wrong decision today.”

Stafford’s strained leg muscle added injury to the insult. He told reporters that the leg had been bothering him during practice leading up to the game, even though he was never listed on the team's injury reports all week.

Stafford also said he will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.

“His mobility was limited through the game,” Schwartz said.

The Titans appeared to have the game clinched when they scored with 1:16 remaining in regulation to take a 41-27 lead.

The Lions, however, scored with 18 seconds left, recovered the on-side kick and then connected again as time expired on a 46-yard Hail Mary from Hill to Titus Young.

Young grabbed the ball and fell into the end zone after a Tennessee player tipped the long pass near the goal line.

It was a miracle comeback -- but a wasted one.

Tennessee took advantage of a holding penalty against rookie cornerback Bill Bentley, keeping a drive going to start the overtime. The Titans went on to regain the lead with a 26-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.

With the NFL’s new overtime rules, the Lions still had a chance to tie or win it. Hill moved them into position again, but it all ended abruptly with the inadvertent snap.

In the end, the Lions really didn’t deserve the victory based on how they played defensively and on special teams.

The Titans scored on five not-so-ordinary big plays:

• A cross-field lateral pass for a 65-yard punt return;

• a 61-yard pass to a tight end;

• a 105-yard kick return, tying the score right after the Lions had taken the lead in the fourth quarter;

• a 71-yard pass when the receiver reached over cornerback Jacob Lacey’s back to make the catch while safety John Wendling failed to make the tackle;

• and then a 72-yard fumble return when Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew got the ball ripped out of his hands.

You had to see it all to believe it, and even then you wouldn't have believed it.

The loss ruined a strong performance by Lions running back Mikel Leshoure, who rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown in his NFL debut.

Receiver Calvin Johnson ended up with 10 receptions for 164 yards, nearly all of it after halftime.

Jason Hanson kicked four field goals for the second straight week. He also did an admirable job filling in for punter Ben Graham, who suffered a calf injury late in the first quarter.

Receiver Nate Burleson, who caught the go-ahead touchdown pass and a two-point conversion with 6:53 remaining, wasn’t in at the end because he was suffering from cramps, Schwartz said.

Leshoure also was on the sideline much of the time down the stretch, apparently because he tired during the nearly four-hour game. He was replaced by former Wayne State running back Joique Bell, who dropped a key pass in overtime.

After all these ups and downs, it was a completely heartbreaking finish for the Lions, who are now in last place in the NFC North with a 1-2 record.