Monday, January 16, 2012

Top 50 Plays of the Detroit Lions 2011 Season: 50-41

On more than one occasion, I have expressed my discontent with novelty sports lists. I hate them. I hate slideshows, I hate ridiculous conceptual lists (ie: Top 5 Lions Players Who Could Star In The Next Moneyball), and I especially hate how gimmicky lists are in general. But I am not ready to let go of the 2011 season. It was too much fun, and I want to relive every great moment. It is with this enthusiasm that I decided I would go against one of my stronger writing principles and create a list of the top 50 plays/moments of the 2011 season. Going through the early stages of this list, I thought it may be tough to find 50 great plays. I couldn't have been more wrong. Coming up with 50+ was simple. Whittling down the list to 50 and putting them order was the real challenge. With that, I present you with plays 50-41 of the 2011 Detroit Lions Season. (I tried to embed as many videos as possible, but doesn't allow it. If it's not on youtube, it's not embedded.)

50. Matthew Stafford finds a wide-open Titus Young for a 41-yard touchdown.
In what will be the first of many, many long passes on this list, I found it hard to put this play any higher on the list. It just was too easy. Still, credit to Stafford for hanging in the pocket and Young for getting so open. WATCH

49. Tony Scheffler reaches paydirt and swashbuckles. 
I have to admit, I'm a sucker for celebrations. Almost everyone agrees they make the game more fun for fans, so Bob Costas can suck it. It's also a pretty darn good pass-on-the-run by Stafford.

48. Nate Burleson comes down with a huge catch against the Saints.
This play makes the list because it was a beautifully thrown ball and it brought the Lions extremely close to tying up the game against the Saints (the first time the two teams met). If Burleson keeps his footing, the score is knotted early in the fourth quarter, and who knows what would've happened the rest of the way. Of course, what actually happened was the Lions drive stalled there, and Jason Hanson missed a field goal. That's why this is only 48. WATCH

47. Scheffler catches a go-ahead touchdown in traffic at Lambeau.
In what was one, of many, fourth quarter touchdown passes, Stafford fired a perfect ball to Scheffler. Matthew fit it in a tight hole and Tony had the concentration to bring it into his body (PHRASING!). If this touchdown would have held up as the game winner, it might have made the top half of the countdown. WATCH

46. Alphonso Smith reads Matt Flynn like a backup book.
There was mot a lot of defense in this game, but Smith's touchdown was a phenomenal exception. He made an outstanding read on this play, and made the pick with ease. With all the momentum in his body going towards the endzone, it was surprising Smith didn't score on this play. Still, very impressive instincts from the Phonz. More from him later.

45. Fourth down stand on Monday Night Football.
The game was still scoreless, and the Bears were threatening to get on the board first. Instead of opting for a 43-yard field goal, the Bears tried converting a fourth and inches play. The play, however, never had a chance as Ndamukong Suh was in the backfield immediately. Matt Forte was brought down well before the first down. It was only a couple plays later that the Lions offense....oops, I'm getting ahead of myself, you'll have to wait for that one. WATCH

44. Brandon Pettigrew puts the Lions up for good against the Panthers.
Ah, the first of the Lions' double-digit comebacks on the list. This was a strange game against Carolina. Though the Lions fell behind early, they seemed like the better team all day. The scoreboard finally agreed late in the fourth quarter when Pettigrew snagged this touchdown pass with under three minutes to go. This is just a great play by Pettigrew fighting off the coverage. Just what you're looking for in the red zone. WATCH

43. Burleson's go-ahead touchdown against San Francisco.
I don't think I'll ever forget this play, as it served as the exact moment when I figured out that I will never, ever know what constitutes a completed catch. After the play, I was sure the Lions had been cursed, once again, by the "process of the catch" goblin. I figured that wouldn't be a catch, the Lions would fail to score and they'd, again, suffer their first loss of the season at the hands of the men in striped suits. Luckily, most of that turned out to be false. But controversy aside, this was an excellent run-fake by Stafford, and a perfect route by Burleson. WATCH

42. Stafford and Burleson connect on a 3rd and 19 conversion.
On a day that would be the Lions' offensive masterpiece, this play encapsulated everything awesome about Detroit when they are firing on all cylinders. Stafford does a brilliant job recognizing pressure, stepping up in the pocket and finding the hole in the zone where Burleson is waiting exactly at the chains. Nate then makes a move and nearly reaches the endzone. This is what good teams do. They see 3rd and 19, and they don't run away scared. They convert. WATCH

41. On the first drive of their first playoff game in 12 seasons, the Lions cash in.
This is the only game of the season that I have yet to re-watch. I'm not sure I ever will re-watch. As of right now, the wound is still too fresh and the pain has not fully subsided. So this will be the only time I will be mentioning this game in the countdown, as it is the only moment of the game I choose to remember. The Lions drove the field in convincing fashion and did what the needed to do to finish the drive: get six. WATCH

40-31 on Tuesday...

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