Friday, January 20, 2012

Top 50 Plays of the Detroit Lions 2011 Season: 10-1

For plays 50-41, click here.
For plays 40-31, click here.
For plays 30-21, click here.
For plays 20-11, click here.

Finally, the moment I've all been waiting for (maybe you've been waiting for it, too): The Top 10! These are the moments that helped define this magical season. Many of these plays are moments I'll likely never forget. This entire season is one I won't soon forget, not just for the moments in this countdown, but for the strides this team made in such a small amount of time. This was easily my favorite season of Detroit Lions football in my young life, and the last thing I will do is take it for granted. We all know what it feels like to be on the other side. And that's why I made this countdown: so we could bask in the glory of having a good team for a little longer. Okay, sorry, enough jibber-jabber, onto the list...

10. Calvin breaks free on Monday Night Football.
The stage was set. The crowd was pumping. The hype-machine was in full overdrive. But the Lions struggled to match the intensity out of the gate. After a scoreless first quarter, the defense made a great defensive stand, setting up a moment that would propel the Ford Field and the Lions into a frenzy. Of course it was a beautiful pass by Stafford and a great catch-and-run by Johnson that broke the game open.

9. DeAndre Levy saves the Lions season on the last play against the Vikings.
It was all slipping away. The game, the hope, the season were all slowly eroding away at the hands of Joe Webb. The moment before this play was the lowest I've felt as a Lions fan since 0-16. All the promise, all the talk of turning the page, rounding the corner, everything was about to fall apart and we'd be left with what we're all too used to: hope being devoured by disappointment. But Levy wasn't having any of that. As long as the Lions still led on the scoreboard, and the Vikings still had a yard to go, the game and season, weren't over. Many will talk about the missed facemask on this play, but lost in all of that talk was how well the defense played on this snap. The facemask, while obviously illegal, had no bearing on the outcome of the play. The receivers were well covered, the playcall was perfect, and Levy made a huge play.

8. Megatron completes the comeback in Oakland.
Just typing those words gives me chills. As you probably know, I was at this game, in the Black Hole, at the endzone in which this touchdown was scored. Months of anxiety for my safety at this game came to a head at this moment. But I didn't feel any of it. All I felt was pure euphoria. My brethren and I were so manic at this moment we couldn't hear the deafening silence around us, nor could we see all of the unwanted attention we were likely drawing. As a Lions fan, I have never experienced this sort of high. (play at 7:20 mark)

7. Megatron's over-the-shoulder grab puts the Lions in field goal range for the game winning score in overtime.
The great comeback in Minnesota would have all been for nought if the Lions couldn't pull the game out in overtime. When you need a play, ask Calvin and he shall receive. What outstanding concentration and hand-eye coordination. (play at 2:47 mark)

6. Jahvid Best breaks free for 88-yards on a national stage.
The Lions were clinging onto a small lead and having trouble breaking free of the Bears' grasp, despite solid defensive play and a roaring crowd. Then this happened. With this play, Best not only wrote his name in the Lions record books (2nd longest run in franchise history), but he gave the Lions the two-score lead that they needed to win the game. Up until this moment, Best's big-play ability was purely a theory for the 2011 season. But afterwards, we all knew how dangerous he can be when healthy. Just look at that speed.

5. Need a game-winning touchdown against the Cowboys? May I suggest a little Megatron?
Another SPOILER ALERT, this game has four (yes, four) plays in the top five. It would seem pretty strange to have the game-winning score ranked the lowest on the list of the four plays, but it will all make sense in a few paragraphs. This play was both the decisive score in the game and an impressive display of the physicality of Calvin Johnson. But the Lions made it look incredibly easy. (play at 12:00 mark)

4. Bobby Carpenter lights the comeback fuse.
The Cowboys game wouldn't have been the amazing game that it was without Carpenter's impressive pick six of Tony Romo early in the third quarter. With everything going the Cowboys way through the first half, it seemed like the Lions were in for a rough letdown and their first loss of the season. Carpenter's interception showed great coverage skills, amazing hands, and even impressive vision as a runner. Though the comeback was anything but certain after the play, the crack in the Cowboy's armor had been made. (play at 0:50 mark)

3. Chris Houston to Bobby Carpenter: "Anything you can do, I can do better."
The comeback still seemed unlikely after the Carpenter INT, but when Houston one-upped Carpenter, it was more than a possibility, it almost seemed certain. Houston's pick got the nod over the Carpenter play for a couple reasons. One, Houston manages to pull this ball in with one hand and a receiver all over him. Also, Houston is somehow able to escape the receiver and take it to the house. While Bobby's pick was the one to start the comeback, Houston's was the one who made it seem really possible. (play at 1:13 mark)

2. Cliff Avril reads, elevates and picks off Philip Rivers.
The game was already over. The champagne had already been popped. The Lions were already in the playoffs. In fact, I was so lost in my thoughts at the time that I hadn't even seen this play happen live. But when I saw the replay, I saw a man...nay...a monster reach for the heavens, snatch the ball with his one, gargantuan hand, glide into the endzone and emphatically stamp "PLAYOFFS" into the history books of the 2011 season. Amazing awareness and athleticism from Avril (and alliteration from me). (play at 12:53 mark)

1. Megatron defeats three intercepticons. 
I don't need to justify this. Watch. Then watch again. Then again. Then again.

Alright, let me have it. Where did I screw or? What did I forget? What was your favorite moment?

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