Well, all’s well that ends well, I suppose. And it certainly wasn’t pretty. But the Lions once again pulled out a last-second victory on a Matt Prater field goal, defeating Minnesota 16-13 on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. The win puts the Lions in sole possession of first place of the NFC North and the possibility for a first-round playoff bye heading into December.
After an excruciatingly long, and at some points hard-to-listen-to rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Aretha Franklin, Detroit marched down the field after receiving the opening kickoff and capped off an impressive drive with Matthew Stafford two yard toss to Anquan Boldin in the back of the end zone to give the Lions a quick lead. Boldin would go on to haul in 7-of-9 targets for 69 yards. He now has five TD’s on the year and has been mostly reliable as the offense’s senior citizen fourth option.
Minnesota would respond immediately, however, scoring a touchdown of their own on a Matt Asiata five yard run. The Lions shot themselves in the foot a couple times on a few costly (if not questionable) penalties. Darius Slay was flagged for pass interference after popping the ball loose breaking up a Sam Bradford pass to his side of the field – which seemed to result in a Detroit interception and huge return the other way. But the play was ultimately called back, and Minny would punch it in with Ariata few plays later.
Those two drives ate up nearly the entire first quarter, and would account for the game’s only two touchdowns. It would be a battle of field goals the rest of the way, as a sort of tryptophan effect took hold of the Lions offense the rest of the way. The offensive line, in particular, looked especially sluggish picking up various blitzes and Stafford was under duress the majority of the second half. This needs to be addressed. Minnesota was basically just laughing at the inability of the Lions to run the football and blitzing on nearly every play, and they somehow have to come up with a way to at least keep teams honest – whether it be through screen passes or draws or reverses.
As time winded down in the fourth quarter with the teams tied at 13, Minnesota was set up in prime position to steal this game and the road win with at least a field goal attempt. This, of course, never happened, as the play of the day goes to Darius “Big Play” Slay as he picked off Bradford inside Minnesota territory with under a minute to go. Minnesota fans may have a gripe as to whether or not Slay fumbled the football as he was being tackled before he hit the turf, but being under two minutes to go they could not challenge the ruling on the field and they play stood.
We all know the rest. Stafford promptly takes a knee, Head Coach Jim Caldwell lets the clock wind down to three seconds, and Matt Prater trots out and boots a 40 yard field goal as time expired. Lights Out. Again, it wasn’t pretty, and the Lions will certainly not look in the rear view mirror on this one.
Had a nice little day and has more than earned a shot for another contract (if he doesn’t retire).
He just seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and why Sam Bradford would throw anywhere near him on that final drive is anyone’s guess.
Winner, winner, Turkey Dinner
As the Lions head into December, weather will not be a factor in any of the remaining five games with the exception of one – when they travel to New York to play the Giants on December 18. All the other games will be played indoors.