Back by popular demand this summer, it's the Detroit Lions "Ten Best" countdown. Every Monday over the next two months, we'll not only be counting down the best games, but also the best plays of last season. All of this will lead into our positional previews, which should take us through training camp and the preseason. Then, its finally time to play some football!
It had been 10 years since the Detroit Lions had hosted a Monday Night Football game. When it was announced in 2011 that the team finally would once again, anticipation was at an all time high. The close rival Chicago Bears would visit, promising an intense, hard hitting NFC North tilt.
With the nearby Detroit Tigers still in the playoffs, Michigan was wrapped up in an October daze of sports. As such, the atmosphere around town all Monday was festive. It was as if another holiday was taking place. Heading into the game, even casual football observers could tell that the Bears were likely in for a feisty "battle of Detroit."
Though things started out slow in the first half, the impassioned crowd was a clear factor. They rattled Jay Cutler and the Bears early and often, forcing several false start penalties. The score stayed null until early in the second quarter, when Calvin Johnson burned Chicago's defense and hauled in a long bomb to put the Lions ahead. The pesky Bears, despite everyone against them, hung around. A Robbie Gould field goal and Kellen Davis touchdown later, and Chicago held a surprising 10-7 lead at halftime.
Despite this tiny bit of adversity, the Lions had outplayed the Bears in the first 40 minutes. It seemed like just a matter of time before the levee would break, and that proved true in the third quarter. Matthew Stafford put together a nice drive, hitting Brandon Pettigrew for a 17 yard score to put the Lions back on top. Four minutes later, the definitive play of the game occurred. Backed up near their own goal line for the first time all night, Stafford had to be feeling the heat. He handed the ball off to Jahvid Best, who showed just how electric he can be in the open field. Best scampered 88 yards to the opposite end zone, giving the Lions a 21-10 cushion they wouldn't relinquish. The teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter, and Detroit's crowd counted down a joyous win.
The Lions were 5-0 and riding high. Football was officially relevant in Detroit once again. If there was one game which defined the 2011 season, this Monday night affair was likely it. Lions' fans had been beaten down by failure, losing and frustration for generations, but those skeletons finally went away on October 10. Detroit roared, and their team powerfully roared along with them. The Lions were the talk of football. This performance would prove huge late in the season, and likely also solidified the Lions' 2012 appearances on Monday Night Football as well.
Perhaps, fans will even be able to look back years from now and say this game was the springboard to Lions greatness. Only time will tell.
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