Over the next week, we are going through the 10 plays that shaped the 2014 season for the Detroit Lions. Up next: No. 3.
The play: Matthew Stafford and Joique Bell botched a handoff exchange during the fourth quarter of Detroit’s 30-20 loss to Green Bay in the regular-season finale at Lambeau Field. The fumble was recovered by Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett on the Detroit 42-yard line.
The situation: The Lions trailed 21-14 but had a lot of momentum after blocking a 52-yard Mason Crosby field goal attempt with 13:36 left. The Lions took over on their own 42-yard line needing a touchdown to tie the game. Instead, Detroit bungled its first play. While Stafford was blamed for the fumble, the quarterback was not at fault for the fumble; he put it right in Bell’s hands and Bell lost it. The Packers got the ball back on the Lions’ 42 and went on a nine-play, 42-yard drive culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by Aaron Rodgers to give the Packers a 28-14 lead with 8:45 left. It essentially sealed the game for Green Bay.
The reason it mattered: The fumble killed any momentum the Lions had for winning in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991 and winning their first divisional title since 1993. It was a complete failure of a play and ended up putting Detroit down two scores with less than nine minutes left. While the Lions ended up pulling things closer toward the end of the game, this was the biggest turning point in the team’s most critical regular-season game. It ensured Detroit would go on the road in the playoffs to Dallas, where the Lions' season ended.
What Jim Caldwell said about the play (via the Detroit News): "I told our guys after they get out of that shower when they get finished, 'Hey, we've got to look forward. We're not going to look behind.’ We don't have to address any issues and talk about this particular game. It's over with. It's done. They played well enough to give us a chance to get into a new season, and this new season is win or go home. It's a new day."