Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top 50 Plays of the Detroit Lions 2011 Season: 40-31

Welcome back. If you missed plays 50-41, you can check them out here

40. Eric Wright picks off Matt Ryan on the Falcons' first drive of the game.
This is just a great example of a defensive back reading the quarterback's eyes and making a great break on the ball. Be sure to watch the replay of the interception and focus on how well Wright identifies Ryan's target. The play allowed the Lions to get out to an early lead, which, we all remember, did not hold up very long. WATCH

39. Stafford shows perfect touch under duress on a 31-yard pass to Scheffler against Saints.
This play makes the list purely on degree of difficulty from Stafford. With pressure barreling down on him, Stafford amazingly lofts the ball BARELY over the defender and perfectly in Scheffler's arms. This play led to a touchdown that brought the Lions within seven with only the fourth quarter to go. WATCH

38. Third and 24? Give it to the rook.
I'm not sure what is more impressive on this play: Stafford's arm or Titus Young's leaping abilities. When we drafted Young, I figured he'd be a deep threat, but only because of his speed. This play proved he can also go up and get the ball and has impressive athleticism. The only reason this play is so far down the list is because, in terms of impact, it wasn't all that important (play at 0:49 mark of video).

37. Suh's pressure leads to a Wright pick.
This is exactly how the Lions wrote up their defensive strategy: get pressure with the front four, and let your back seven cash in on their opportunities. Suh immediately gets in the backfield, disrupts Matt Cassel's throw, and Wright makes another great read on the play. This was just an all-around great defensive play. WATCH

36. Chris Harris, with a little help from Stephen Tulloch, ends Carolina's final threat.
Keeping with the defensive theme, this play was a great example of a linebacker properly dropping into coverage and creating a big play. Tulloch stuck to his zone, got a hand on the ball and made it easy for Harris to come away with the interception. The pick ended Cam Newton's potentially game-tying drive and essentially sealed the game. WATCH

35. Fourth down, fourth quarter stop paves the way for Lions comeback in Minnesota.
The Lions streak of losses in the Metrodome would have never ended without this key play early in the fourth quarter. Up three, the Vikings decided to pass on a chip-shot field goal, and go for it on fourth and one. Instead of using Adrian Peterson to pound the rock, the Vikings questionably gave the ball to Toby Gerhart. Several Lions found Gerhart in the backfield and brought him down before he could reach the sticks, paving the way for the Lions to tie the game up and eventually win it in overtime. WATCH

34. You can't have one fourth down stop without the other (vs. Chargers)
This was a pivotal moment in the game. The Lions had jumped out to a big, early lead, but the Chargers were methodically crawling their way back into the game. With the Lions still up 21 in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Chargers were about to cut that to 14. Philip Rivers competed a 24- yard pass down to the Lions' two-yard line, but that would be the last pass he'd complete on the drive. The Lions defense held up incredibly strong, forcing Rivers into four straight incompletions, ending with this great play by Alphonso Smith. Goal line stands are always impressive. Goal line stands on four straight plays are purely outstanding. WATCH

33. Stafford throws a laser to Scheffler on a 36-yard seem-route touchdown.
If you ever want to know why having a strong arm in the NFL is important, watch this play over and over again. More than half of starting NFL quarterbacks could not make this throw. It requires an incredible amount of strength and accuracy, and Stafford made this throw several times this season. Just a beautiful, beautiful throw. WATCH

32. Jahvid Best breaks a huge run to put the Bears away.
I'm going to be honest with you, there aren't going to be a lot of running plays on this countdown. But this play exhibits both great blocking and what Best can do with some space. Best outruns half of the players on the field and puts a Nasty (capital N) move on the safety. This play was also extremely important, because it allowed the Lions to burn more clock and moved the Lions into field goal range (with the help of a horse-collar), where they would eventually make it a two-possession game late. (skip to 9:34 on video) 

31. Pettigrew hangs on in traffic to put the Lions up 10 early versus Niners.
The Niners defense has displayed all season how tough it is to score against them (unless there's two minutes left and you have Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham). The Lions faced a tough third and 10 situation in the red zone. The degree of difficulty for this play was near a 10, as Pettigrew is blanketed by two guys and is immediately hit after grabbing the ball. This was another great throw by Stafford and an incredible job by Pettigrew to hang on just as long as he needed to. WATCH

Come back tomorrow for 30-21, when the plays start getting reaaaaaaally good.

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