Posted December 17, 2013

Ravens’ Justin Tucker delivers latest ‘kick to the stomach’ for long-suffering Lions

Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, NFC North
Justin Tucker (9) accounted for all of Baltimore's points on his six made field goals. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Justin Tucker (9) accounted for all of Baltimore’s points on his six made field goals. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

DETROIT — In the rafters above Ford Field, split on the field by the 50-yard stripe from which Justin Tucker actually stepped back for his game-winning kick in the closing seconds Monday, hang the Detroit Lions’ championship banners. They honor the franchise’s title teams from 1935, 1952, 1953 and 1957.

On nights like these, when the Lions almost inevitably choose the wrong path at the fork in the road, those banners are more a mocking reminder of glories past than they are celebratory.

Armed with a chance to take a step closer towards winning a division title for the first time in two decades, the Lions lost in a way that was at once confounding and commonplace. The Ravens did not score a touchdown in this game, then essentially settled for that do-or-die, low-percentage field goal from their own end of the field.

But teams like the Lions do not build up such a tortured existence by blocking those tries or watching them sail wide. Tucker, who entered Monday with 27 consecutive field-goal makes, managed to get enough height on his kick to clear the line, as a few Detroit fans behind the goal posts hopefully signaled that it was short.
The rest knew otherwise.

Tucker’s 61-yard kick crept over the crossbar to give Baltimore an 18-16 lead, then Matthew Stafford threw an interception on Detroit’s next snap to seal it.

“It was a nice little kick to the stomach,” Detroit safety Glover Quin said.

The defending champs are very much alive. And the Lions are almost certainly headed back to the drawing board again, with coach Jim Schwartz’s future looking less certain than ever.

“We had everything in front of us to keep control [of the division lead],” running back Reggie Bush said inside a devastated Detroit locker room. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We did not go take it, didn’t go get it.”

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The Lions nearly pulled out a needed win in spite of themselves, with Stafford hitting Joseph Fauria for a 14-yard touchdown and one-point lead with just over two minutes to go. But Calvin Johnson, capping a night that saw him drop two wide-open passes and have a third skip off his fingers, could not keep himself inbounds as he turned to nab a subsequent two-point attempt.

That miscue left the door open for the Ravens to reclaim the lead. They did so only after Joe Flacco found Jacoby Jones on a third-and-15, silencing a roaring crowd. Jones took the ball to the Detroit 45 on his catch.

Baltimore gained just two more yards before giving Tucker a shot.

“It’s tough for them,” Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda said of the Lions. “They played well, right at the end scored to take the lead, but it’s the NFL … golly, you’ve gotta have the ball right at the last second. You’ve got to make plays and stay locked in.”

Over and over again in recent weeks — and throughout, oh, the past 40 years — the Lions have been unable to do that. When this latest crushing defeat concluded, the refrains were all too familiar for those players who have been here.

“I think some of the stuff that happened to us was self-inflicted,” Stafford said.

Then, Quin: “I think we know we’re a good team, we’ve got to go out there and do it, and not wait for someone to mess it up or wait for someone to make a play.”

And Calvin Johnson: “We just didn’t make the plays that were there for us to make. We just let them get away.”

The Lions still have hope of creeping back atop the NFC North when all is said and done, but it’s a long shot, far from the stranglehold they took by finishing off a sweep of the Bears five weeks ago. Since then, with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler sidelined, Detroit has gone 1-4.

Now, barring a 2-0 finish and some help — the Lions need the Bears and Packers, who play in Week 17, to each lose once over the next two Sundays — Schwartz may be handed his walking papers.

“The only assurance is we have two games to play, and we’re one down in the division,” said Schwartz when asked about his job security. “That’s the only thing we need to worry about, only thing we need to concern ourselves with.”

Baltimore has a much more encouraging situation in front of it. With their dramatic victory in Motown and the Bengals’ loss on Sunday night, the Ravens now control their destiny in the AFC North. Beat New England next week and Cincinnati in Week 17, and they’ll take the division title.

For a team once 3-5 this season, that’s a remarkable reversal of fortune.

The Lions can only dream of such a rags-to-riches success story. All the positive vibes surrounding their rebuilding, sparked by a surprising playoff berth in 2011, have vanished amid another unimaginable collapse.

“Yeah, this one hurts,” said Lions center Dominic Raiola. “Right now it hurts, but we have to find a way to bounce back. Like I said, you don’t know what’s going to happen Sunday.”

The 64,000 or so Detroit faithful who packed this place might beg to differ. Few things have become as certain in the unpredictable NFL as the Lions’ penchant for heartbreak.

43 comments
zbigkid
zbigkid

The looks on the Lion's players faces, as the football dropped over the cross bar were absolutely priceless. Says this happy Bears fan. ;)

rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

I think MZINGA should come out of the closet and admit they suck worse on the SI board

ardee333
ardee333

Too bad Detroit doesn't play on a real field. I don't think anyone is making 61 yard field goals outdoors in Detroit in mid December. They would at least have better excuses for their screwups.

leon1376
leon1376

NFL officials are rapidly becoming as bad as their counterparts in the NBA. Wrong calls. Ticky-tack fouls. Phantom calls. No-calls. It's like having three teams on the field instead of two. 

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

What is it with the refs being so bad. Every week there are a couple of OBVIOUS screw ups. Even with instant replay they can't get it right. Without it...who the hell knows?


Fifilo
Fifilo

Lions are Dallas North. Big names like Megatron and Suh fade to nothing in December. 


Having said that, the refs were pathetic.

btcvsolo
btcvsolo

Why not trade Murray for Romo?


Just crazy enough to work....

JackSchroeder
JackSchroeder

By definition "destiny" cannot be controlled. Destiny is "predetermined" or "inevitable." Ridiculing sportswriters is too easy, but this cliche is particularly hilarious.

JeffMuetz
JeffMuetz

Seizing defeat from the jaws of victory...what a great line!


Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Teams have to learn how to win. That is not just a coach's claptrap. Detroit has yet to do that, the Ravens have.  That's why, in close games, the teams that know how to win do so.  

rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

With the game on the line the Ravens went with fourth down and a 61 yard field goal attempt...can the Lions defend against that ?



Outside the box
Outside the box

ONce again, Ravens secondary gets away with mugging receivers at crunch time in a big game. Just like SB, Jimmy Smith was locked down on Durham's arm turning a sure touchdown into a field goal, and a winning game into a loss. I agree with Gruden, coaches should be able to challenge pass interference on these type plays.

Outside the box
Outside the box

Does anyone here really believe that Matt Stafford is in any way a big time NFL quarterback? 94 million, are you kidding? He's obviously way too short(leads league in batted down passes) and his side arm passes get intercepted as often as they are completed. He overthrows receivers more than any other QB.

champdailey24
champdailey24

Lions fans have my sympathy. Detroit gets my vote as the worst franchise since the merger or the last 50 years. Who has been worse?

dholiday232
dholiday232

Megatron lost the game--he's paid millions to just the ball!!!!!!!!!!!!

flakfizer
flakfizer

Thought for sure the article would mention that Dempsey's historic 63-yarder was also against the Lions.

BarfCo
BarfCo

Tucker is money.  By far the best kicker in the league and he was an undrafted free agent.

joshua_m_holmes
joshua_m_holmes

We should have won that game with a touchdown that was taken away when ravens corner pass interfered and it was a no call. I would have tossed the flag. something

CoachShetterly
CoachShetterly

Its honestly time to take a long look at Kellen Moore.

James C
James C

This was an all around loss, capped by a great kick by Baltimore's kicker. Ok, one group does not deserve to get credit for the loss, the defense. To hold any NFL team without a TD is impressive. Detroit's defense held Baltimore to 6 FG's, which was unfortunately enough to overcome the offensive inabilities from Detroit. 


Detroit's offensive problems. Dropped passes- Even Calvin Johnson had issues with that. Poor passes - A problem Stafford continues to fight. Poor penalties - Not as bad as some previous games, but still not good. 


I also have a major bone to pick with Coach dippy (Schwartz). Baltimore ball, 23 seconds left and 3 time outs. Call the TO's. You force them to have to run plays, and then anything can happen. You don't let the clock run out. That part pissed me off more than anything last night. 

j7apple
j7apple

I totally could care less who won last night, but were the refs watching the same game I was? Baltimore sure has the officiating in their corner when it comes to their secondary...wow..

cozmikrebl
cozmikrebl

The officiating in that game was once again, horrible. Yet not one mention of that. Unbelievable. Two games in a row the Ravens were gift wrapped wins..look it up.

BigBubba
BigBubba

Schwartz has gotta go.  He is such a poor leader of this franchise.  Constantly, this team is making the same errors they have made for years--how many offsides penalties and pass interference calls can a franchise handle?  Especially in week 14??  Schwartz has had more than enough time and he has proven to follow in the line of Morhinweg (sp?), Mooch, Monte Clark, Rod Marinelli, and many other incompetents.

rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

@ardee333 they play on a nice state of the art plastic field with the latest in ground up tire reinforced padding beneath and fan friendly sightlines for their lousy fans

I think both teams enjoyed the indoors for a change...



stagger
stagger

@JackSchroeder What's even more hilarious is a d-bag reading a sports article expecting Shakespeare...

StevePotate
StevePotate

@JackSchroeder That's an unnecessarily narrow definition of the word. I'm all for pedantry, but you're just wrong. Is there a more concise way to communicate the idea of a team "controlling their own destiny"?

jamie11230
jamie11230

@champdailey24 They're the only pre-merger team never to appear in a Super Bowl, although the Oilers, Browns, and Cardinals had to relocate to other cities first.

RCH
RCH

@flakfizer Trico and Gruden at least mentioned it last night.

WillWillis1
WillWillis1

@flakfizer That would require, you know, a little more effort to research than the usual tossing out of opinions/commentary. We can't have any of that now, can we?

programmer693
programmer693

@cozmikrebl 

Refs are letting them play.  Lions and Ravens secondarys are very physical, refs couldn't call every play.

James C
James C

@cozmikrebl I can't speak to the previous games, but the defensive secondary officiating was piss poor last night. Multiple PI instances missed both ways. Very poor officiating downfield on pass plays. 

Plainview
Plainview

@BigBubbain large part, stafford still has some learning to do which is troubling.  Just not a very disciplined team.  A lot like the ravens to be honest, but the ravens always seem to bring it together in the final seconds.  The lions, and stafford, cannot. 

And Megatron dropping those two passes...unbelievable. 

Fifilo
Fifilo

Yea, those 15 minutes went by so quick.

Plainview
Plainview

@WillWillis1@flakfizernot when this was posted about 1 hour after the game ended we can't.  That probably gives the writer about 25-35 minutes to actually write the thing.

I am all for quality journalism, but if you expect these immediate turn-a-round summaries of the game to be comprehensive analysis, good luck. 


These "Audibles" are almost always somewhere between actual journalism, and blog posts or tweets.  And definitely leaning much closer to blog posts or tweets.