The Detroit Lions were defeated by the Carolina Panthers in a depressing 27-24 contest at Ford Field.
In every game, there are a few plays that determine which team wins, and which loses. In no game I have ever seen has that been more apparent than this week’s game between the Detroit Lions, and the Carolina Panthers. This game came down to literally three different plays. Should the Lions have managed a better result, the final score of the game may have been different. Every play has a cascade effect. If the Panthers had not gone up by three scores, they may not have taken their foot off the gas and allowed the Lions to come within three points of stealing a game. With that said they might have done just that. Here are the three plays that directly changed the scoreboard by enough points to turn the tide.
How The Lions Lost By Three Points
The first play is one that Lions fans have seen before. At 11:41 in the first quarter, Eric Ebron dropped a pass in the end zone. Lions fans have seen this before from Ebron. Whether it is on third down or in the red zone, the one thing you can count on is that Ebron will drop any vital throw that comes his way. The Lions scored a field goal instead of a touchdown and the Lions lost the game by three points.
At 11:09 in the second quarter, Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffery took a shovel pass from quarterback Cam Newton and ran six yards into the end zone. Of course, Dean Blandino and everyone watching the play saw that Matt Kalil had blocked linebacker Jarrad Davis illegally downfield. Everyone saw that including some of the officiating crew. Unfortunately, it was not the persuasive faction within team zebra. The result of the play should have been a five-yard penalty setting up second and 11 rather than a touchdown. It is not unreasonable to think there is a pretty good chance that the Lions defense would hold in that scenario. They have been doing it all year. The scant difference between a touchdown and a field goal there would have meant four points, and the Detroit Lions lost the game by only three. These kinds of things only get called against the Lions.
At 10:43 of the third quarter Matthew Stafford fumbled the ball as he was sacked by defensive tackle Kawaan Short. Short had simply run around guard Graham Glasgow like he wasn’t there. The Detroit Lions defense held the Panthers offense to negative three yards on the drive that followed. The Panthers were already in field goal range. Kicker Graham Gano hit a 44-yard field goal, and the Panthers scored three points. The Lions lost the game by those three points.
Would Have, Should Have, Could Have
The threshold from which a win becomes a loss in an NFL game is minimal. In this game, it came down to any one of three plays going a different way. There were a dozen other plays that could have extended an offensive drive, which may have allowed the team to march 30 more yards for a field goal. I wanted to limit this to the single plays that cost the Lions points as close to directly as possible. The Lions did not deserve this win, but that very nearly did not matter, as it has not mattered before.