Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top 50 Plays of the Detroit Lions 2011 Season: 20-11

For plays 50-41, click here.
For plays 40-31, click here.
For plays 30-21, click here.

20. Kevin Smith drives the entire field in two plays against Panthers.
Admittedly, I'm bending the rules a little for this one, but it just feels right to combine these two back-to-back plays. In the first, Smith cuts back finding a huge hole and is off to the races. He makes the safety miss and almost takes it to the house. The second play is a brilliantly set up screen pass, and Smith, again, shows great vision, patiently waits for his blocks, and reaches pay-dirt. In just his second game back from NFL obscurity, Smith proved he is worthy of a roster spot on some team in the NFL. WATCH

19. Alphonso Smith's "Thrilling" interception on Ponder.
See what I did there? You see, after Smith scores the touchdown, he starts dancing like Michael Jackson does in the music video for "Thriller". BUT (and here's where the joke gets really funny), I also found the play very thrilling. IT HAS TWO MEANINGS. Ladies and gentleman, that's what we call a genius pun. I await my Pulitzer. Um, so, anyway...Smith again shows his knack for the ball and, this time, takes it to the house. And as I said before, good celebrations get a bump in the countdown. Not Smith's best work, but decent. (play at 0:34 mark)

18. Stafford and Johnson run play-action to perfection against Falcons.
This play doesn't rank high on the "importance" scale, as the Lions lost to the Falcons in a pretty decisive manner. But in terms of execution, it doesn't get any better than this. First, the fake end-around works to perfection, creating a pocket that Stafford intuitively steps into. Secondly, the pass is thrown perfectly; with incredible accuracy and a serious amount of heat behind it. The power of the throw allows the pass to get there before the safety, and Calvin Johnson does the rest. The Lions ran this play several times over the season, but none were executed to the perfection of this play. (play at 2:18 mark)

17. Stafford lays a perfect ball to Johnson on fourth down against Bucs.
Going into the 2011 season, all of us knew the capability of Stafford throwing a bullet. However, if there was one concern about his play, it was the uncertainty of Stafford's ability to put touch on the ball and gently lay it in small windows. Well, it didn't take long for Stafford to put those worries to rest. On this fourth down converstion, Stafford puts the ball just over the the corners reach (although, the corner does get a hand on it, if I recall correctly), and Megatron shows extreme concentration pulling in the tipped ball with a hand in his face. It's quite appropriate that the Lions' first touchdown of the 2011 season was a beauty. (play at 0:24 mark)

16. Cliff Avril strips Tebow, recovers and takes it to the house all by himself.
It was no secret that this was a contract year for Avril. And while his play was sometimes inconsistent, when he did show up, his impact was invaluable. He has already popped up a couple of times on this countdown, and (SPOILER ALERT) he's got a couple more plays coming. On this play, Avril does it all: beats his man, strips the ball, recovers the fumble, takes it for six, and boiler ups.

15. Did someone say Cliff Avril?
I could've sworn I heard someone say Cliff Avril. Well, I've got another Avril play for you. This time, on the very first defensive play of the game, Avril, once again, made a game-changing play. Avril, as he always seems to do, beats his man to the outside and bats the ball out of Ponder's hand. Stephen Tulloch jumps on the ball in the endzone, probably because Avril told him to. Avril. (play at 0:38 mark)

14. Chris Houston takes a Tebow pick 100-yards for six. 
Sure the game was well over by this point, but for all the defense had done, they still had not managed to pick off Tim Tebow in the game. Enter: Chris Houston. Granted, this ball was pretty much thrown directly at Houston, and it didn't require a lot of skills outside of speed to take it to the house, but....come's a Tebow pick-six. It's fun. (play at 8:40 mark)

13. Ndamukong Suh saves the Lions from a record-breaking loss in Oakland.
In the midst of a heated playoff race, nothing seemed more "Lion-like" than losing a heart-breaking game on the road on a record-breaking field goal. But as we all know now, this team has no resemblance to the Same Old Lions, and Suh's presence should be enough to prove that. In his first game back after his suspension, Suh was having a fairly quiet day, until the Lions needed him most. Suh's fingertip block put the Lions one step closer to the postseason, and sent Suh, himself, into a wild frenzy. Welcome back, sir. (I don't typically like youtube videos of people filming their TV, but this kid's disappointment is delicious)

12. Bomb to Megatron leads to game-winning touchdown against Raiders.
Sorry, Raiders fans, but this part of the countdown is not kind to you. The Lions, needing 98 yards in two minutes to win the game, got a big chunk of it out of the way on this play. Johnson incredibly flew past two defenders, then made a phenomenal adjustment on the ball. As the Raider announcer says on the clip below, it was a "curious call" by the Raider defense, but it still took incredible skill from Calvin to get that open and then make such a great play on the ball. (play at the 6:37 mark)

11. Calvin Johnson elevates and scores in Tampa.
I....can't describe this play. It KILLS me that I couldn't fit it in the top ten. Just....just watch Calvin be Calvin.

Top 10 plays of the 2011 season tomorrow!

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