"He's CALLLVVIINN, the amazing great!CALLLVVVINN!! He's the one that can't be beat,
He's the one you want to meet!
There are too many directions that I can go in with this one, so I'll preface by saying that I might be all over the place in my professional analysis of yesterday's thrilling 28-27 win. Bear with me.
THINGS WORTH MENTIONING
- Move over Pippen Mitchell, there's a new touchdown king in Detroit! In the biggest game of his career to date, Stafford (with help from 8-1) turned in one of his best games, throwing for nearly 400 yards and cashing in 4 touchdown passes, the final one tying the game and giving him a Lions' record 33 for the season.
- Of course there was Calvin the Amazing Great absolutely TORCHING poor Stanford Routt(ins) and the rest of the Raider secondary for most of the afternoon, especially conspicuous on the Lions' spectacular final drive. With catches of 21, 48, and a 6 yards, plus a 17 yard interference penalty, Calvin accounted for over 90 yards as well as the game's final touchdown on that drive alone. Add in a 52-yard TD catch in the first quarter and more clutch grabs at every juncture, Calvin finished with 214 receiving yards, plus 17 from a desperate penalty (not to mention another obvious interference call that the zebras missed and would have been good for another 40 yards or so). Former Lions great Cloyce Box was rightfully unimpressed, having once caught for over 300 yards and 4 TDs in a 1950 game.
-The final drive: 2 minutes, 99 yards to go, no timeouts, with the infamous "Black Hole" cheering section unleashing only the foulest of obscenities at deafening volume, and Stafford and Calvin engineer a drive with such proficiency that they actually left too much time on the clock to give Oakland a final chance. Even more startling was the infamous Macaroni and Cheese stirrer re-entering the picture to lambast Staff's underthrown 48-yard bomb to Calvin to set up the game-winning score. You know, the pass that was underthrown because Stafford had to throw it from his back foot and release it at a very high angle to avoid having his arm knocked sideways by the Raiders' defender who was right in his face.
-Sebastian Janikowski. When Janikowski first entered the NFL in 2000, Sports Illustrated quickly ran an article about him, ordaining that it was only a matter of time until his trebuchet of a leg broke Tom Dempsey's record for longest field goal, 63 yards. I mean Dempsey had a strong leg, but he was born with only half of a foot, so Sebastian's ruthlessly powerful leg attached to a full foot should at least be good for about a hundred twenty-six yarder, right? In that article, I remember Janikowski boasting something to the effect of, "65 yards? With no wind? Should be too much of a problem."
Lo and behold, with four seconds left yesterday, Janikowski lines up where else but for a 65-yard field goal to win the game against Detroit. Like Tom Dempsey before him, lining up for a 63-yard field goal to win the game, also against Detroit. Sebastian had already tied Dempsey's record with a 63-yard blast of his own against Denver earlier this year, which arguably would have been good from 70. Perfect snap, solid hold, Seabass swings his leg...
And Dom gets a thumb on it! The skin flutters harmlessly to the ground, setting off a wild celebration from the now 9-5 DTLs.
-The Best in the Business. In dishing out credit and praise to the heroes from yesterday's game, it would be foolhardy to leave out the man who put the 28th and final point on the board for the Bromothymols. With an eternally steady foot, Mr. Hanson put yet another clutch kick into the safety net, as he's done for the past two decades. That game-winning point was the 2001st point of #4's storied career. Fun fact: The next field goal that Hanson puts over the crossbar will move him into 4th place in the NFL's all-time points leader board. This is only speculation, but I have to think that if the shoe is on the other foot, The Best in the Business finds a way to hit that final 65-yarder.
-Lions Pass Catchers, other than Calvin, had a pretty disappointing showing yesterday, dropping 8 perfectly well-meaning pigskins. To me, that indicates a very young unit playing overly tight and nervous in what they knew was a huge game for the franchise. This immaturity manifested itself in the form of late penalties against the Saints (if you'll recall, Titus, Wormtail, Burley, and Logan were the worst offenders) and in dropped passes yesterday.
However, in my opinion, they more than made up for it with their awesome group celebrations, with all the receivers doing some kind of dance circle on the sideline after Cal's first TD and an all-out dogpile after his second. I also commend Titus for his clutch fourth down TD catch with five minutes left to make the final drive possible.
-The Comeback. Trailing 20-14 with the ball and 8 minutes remaining, I confidently texted to Nitch, "How great will it be when the Best in the Business shoots a one point shot to send the boys back to the playoffs?"...On the very next play, Stafford fumbled inside the ten, and the Raiders promptly returned it for a touchdown and 27-14 lead. Well, I thought, I didn't necessarily say it was going to happen in this game. But it did. And it was.
While the game-winning drive was all Calvin, the equally important drive before that was all on Stafford. I hope I'm not the only one who noticed that Stafford was getting drilled by the Raiders almost every time he threw a pass during that series (clean hits, maybe one that was a touch late), but was standing tall and firing "LASERS" to his receivers, who were catching the "LASERS" in the times that they weren't dropping them.
-Jekyll and Hyde. What in the world is going on with this edition of the DTLs? The same team that has completely pissed away two games on national TV with mindless penalties is the same team that has clawed back from double-didge second half deficits FOUR separate times to win games this year. The team that did all they could a week ago to blow a 3 touchdown lead in the closing minutes at home against the 2-10 Vikings is the same team that I watched erase a 2 touchdown lead in the closing minutes on the road against a solid Oakland outfit. Big Bad Dom's stomping foot morphs into the Dominator's swatting hand as he blocks Oakland's final kick, fresh off his two game suspension. As it feels like I do every single week this year, I had to once again ask myself, how can a team that is so mentally weak also be so mentally strong?
While we're all still coming down from yesterday's Millennium Force of a thriller, here is the dark underbelly that still looms moving forward: I was wrong in thinking that with the Bears going into hibernation, the DTLs can now waltz their way into the playoffs. With clutch wins yesterday, the Cardinals and Seahawks in the mirror are closer than they appear. If either of these teams (as well as the Bears and the setting for an absolutely terrible movie) finish the season at 9-7 along with the Lions, Detroit would lose the tiebreaker in virtually any scenario. So while the Bears are slumbering in a forest somewhere, the Lions aren't out of the woods yet either. Until yesterday, I had completely overlooked the fact that the Cards and Hawks were still in the picture. Long story short, it sure wouldn't hurt to win one more of these final regular season games. San Diego at home is certainly a winnable game, and if the Kansas City Chieves can beat Green Bay, no reason why the DTLs can't do it too.