The Detroit Lions seemingly won their first game of the season Sunday on a late touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson against the Chicago Bears. It felt like relief, even if it didn't exactly save what has been a disappointing season.
Nor does the win excuse what were some near collosal mistakes. The Lions committed three turnovers, two on fumbles (ANOTHER by rookie running back Ameer Abdullah). Stafford's fourth quarter interception was bad and nearly a back breaker -- he tried to flip a short pass to Theo Riddick under heavy pressure. There was also Jim Caldwell's conservative signature. On fourth-and-4 down seven points at the Bears' 13-yard line with just 2:50 remaining, the Lions settled for a field goal, entrusting a defense that had given up touchdowns on its two previous drives.
And yet, Caldwell was ultimately proven right -- the Lions did hold, then went on the drive that culminated in Johnson's score, set up by an even more spectacular reception by Lance Moore to put the Lions inside the Bears' 10-yard line.
The score gave the Bears' offense just 21 seconds to work with beginning at its own 20-yard line. Detroit should have been in good shape, except its defense reverted to its worst self. The Bears went 69 yards on three plays. Alshon Jeffery gained 49 of them on two receptions, and the other 20 came on a pass interference penalty that put the Bears on the Lions' 11-yard line, setting up Robbie Gould with a short field goal to send the game into overtime.
The two teams traded uninspired drives in overtime, as if the insanity of the end of regulation sapped their energy. Finally, with a little more than three minutes remaining before a tie, Johnson -- the best things about the Lions through all of its best and worst seasons -- made the biggest play of the game.
With a 27-yard Matt Prater field goal, the Lions won 37-34 and fended off a piece of ignominious history. They are the only active franchise with two winless seasons, and they ensured it wouldn't be three. It was terribly ugly, but that's the only way the Lions know how to do it.