Every season has its moments and this year was full of them for the Detroit Lions.
Here, in one writer’s opinion, are the most critical moments of the 2014 Detroit season that ended Sunday with a 24-20 loss to the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs after an 11-5 season. Agree? Disagree? Let's chat about it in the comments.
1. The final 8 minutes, 30 seconds in Dallas: From the pass-interference flag that was picked up to Sam Martin’s 10-yard punt and then the Cowboys’ game-winning drive that featured a fourth-down conversion and two bad penalties, this sequence closed out Detroit’s season.
2. Golden Tate’s 73-yard catch-and-run against New Orleans: The first of three straight come-from-behind wins, the hitch-turned-touchdown with 3:52 left gave Detroit an offensive spark and life for the first time all game. It also solidified Tate’s role as a playmaker in the offense.
3. Tate’s 59-yard touchdown catch against Atlanta: A week after his score sparked the first come-from-behind win, his grab on a blown coverage by the Falcons helped spark a 22-point comeback in London that was capped off by the play below.
4. Matt Prater’s miss-then-make to beat the Falcons: Never has a delay of game on a field goal been so critical. Prater missed the initial potential game-winner against Atlanta, but the ref threw a flag for delay of game, backing Prater up to 48 yards and giving him a second chance. He made that one, giving the Lions a massive victory. That Detroit ended up taking the delay of game, though, is bad on head coach Jim Caldwell, though.
5. Another failure in Green Bay: With a division title and playoff bye on the line, Detroit allowed its first 100-yard rusher of the season (Eddie Lacy) and lost in Wisconsin for the 24th straight time. It also meant the Lions went on the road in the playoffs instead of having a home playoff game for the first time since 1993.
6. Blowout in New England: Losing to the Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts, happens to a lot of teams. But the Lions were outmanned on offense and defense, essentially securing this team would be a step below elite.
7. Alex Henery misses three field goals against Buffalo: This ended up being big on multiple levels. Henery’s misses led to his release and the signing of Prater, who solidified the kicking game. But those misses also cost the Lions a game that, had they won, would have made Detroit’s loss in Green Bay meaningless.
8. Detroit’s defense outscores Packers: The first clue this defense could be elite came in Week 3, when they scored eight points -- a Don Carey scoop-and-score fumble recovery and a DeAndre Levy safety against Lacy -- in a 19-7 victory. The Lions held Green Bay to 223 yards and it was Detroit’s only win over a team with a winning record this season.
9. Ndamukong Suh dominant early against Miami: It’s tough to pick a specific moment for Suh, the Lions’ most valuable player. But he showed all opponents what happens when you single-block him. In the first drive against the Dolphins, he had the first two tackles of the game -- both for a loss and one a sack of Ryan Tannehill. Miami rarely single-blocked him after that and almost every team in the league followed.
10. Matthew Stafford surpasses 20,000 yards: The sixth-year quarterback set an NFL record by throwing for over 20,000 yards in 71 games -- three games faster than Dan Marino, five games faster than Kurt Warner and seven faster than Peyton Manning. He set the mark against Arizona on Nov. 16.