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Detroit Lions Season Review, Part Two: Recapping the Best and Worst Plays, Players and Moments

January 3rd, 2013 at 12:43 PM
By Max DeMara

Here's the second and final installment of Lions 101's breakdown of the 2012 season. After this segment concludes, we promise not to talk about it anymore!

Though the Detroit Lions didn't have very many good things happen in 2012, there were still the usual smattering of high and low moments to recount. From Calvin Johnson setting a receiving record to the debacle on Thanksgiving Day, this year was a season to remember for all the right and wrong reasons.

Below, we take one final look back at the moments we'll remember forever, some good and some bad.

Best Moment Of The Year: Calvin Johnson sets the all-time receiving record. Ah, personal success. Without it, what would the 2012 season have meant for the Lions? Nothing but a bunch of losing and failed expectations. Johnson, though, did his part to avert these problems, setting more records and shattering the myth of the "Madden Curse" in the process. Late in the season and needing only an average game against Atlanta to surpass 1,848 yards, Johnson was a man possessed, going well over the yardage total he needed to catch Jerry Rice and remaining humble in the process. The crowd roared and saluted him, despite the failed efforts of their Lions team. Another special personal achievement in the city who's football team invented such things.

Worst Moment Of The Year: Titus Young's insubordination against Green Bay. We had figured for weeks that Young hadn't completely "bought in" to the Lions' program in 2012, and after a home loss to the Packers, we had all the material evidence we needed. First, there was the shouting on the sidelines between Scott Linehan and now departed receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. Then, it was Young being sent home from the team facility the next day. Later, it was revealed Young hadn't responded well to in-game coaching and made route running mistakes and penalties which sabotaged his team. If it was one series of events which personified why Jim Schwartz must be on the hot seat, it was Young's debacle. Events like this just don't happen on quality, focused football teams. It was the lowest light of 2012.

Best Game: October 14, 2012: Detroit 26, Philadelphia 23 (OT). The Lions looked, how shall we say, completely dead against one of the worst teams in football other than themselves early in 2012. Then, showing shades of what drove their success in 2011, the team fought back with an impressive yet stunning rally fueled as much by good offense as capable defense. Matthew Stafford fired an touchdown to Nate Burleson and led another late drive capped by a Jason Hanson field goal. In overtime, the Lions managed to get another Hanson field goal and cap an impressive comeback. For one Sunday anyway, things felt good and normal in Detroit

Worst Game: November 22, 2012: Houston 34, Detroit 31. From excellent play to shoddy play to lead changes to referee mistakes, this game had it all. The Lions blasted out ahead early, fueled by passion and momentum, attempting to save their season with a big win. Problem was, the Texans had other ideas, and fought back every single time. The referees blew two calls, one of which came on a punt and the other when Justin Forcett should have been ruled down. Despite this and all the turnovers, the Lions were in position to win in overtime and missed a field goal which could have won the game. They lost quickly thereafter, adding the most frustrating nail in the coffin during this season.

Best Play: Titus Young's Hail Mary catch sends game to overtime in Tennessee. In the midst of his awful season, Young still managed to deliver the play of the year by being heads up and standing in the right place at the right time. Needing a touchdown late, Shaun Hill fired a deep bomb towards the end zone that deflected and found its final resting place in the arms of Young. It was a fantastic moment. The game was inexplicably tied and headed for overtime. Like Detroit's season, however, the exceptional wouldn't last. The Lions lost the game and Young eventually lost his way.

Worst Play: Andrew Luck drives 76 yards with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and beats the Lions. For frustration's sake, the Lions' fans couldn't find a worse play than the combined efforts of the defense and offense back to back in early December. The offense couldn't salt away the game and put the defense in a bad spot. Then, Luck surgically worked his way down field one pass at a time, eventually getting to the red zone. All the Lions needed was one more play and one more stop, and Luck managed to find Donnie Avery for the game winning touchdown. This one hurt more than most due to the time an circumstance.

Best Player: Calvin Johnson. What more can be said? Johnson did it all for the Lions' offense in 2012, and managed to have a better year than last season with regards to yardage. Start to finish, he was the most consistent player the Lions rolled out offensively week to week. The beat continues to go on for the best receiver in the league.

Worst Player: Matthew Stafford. Woeful from the first drive of the season on, Stafford couldn't make the plays happen like he did in 2011. He was erratic, made critical mistakes late in games and had far too many interceptions. Worse, questions about mechanics keep creeping up. Maybe he was injured, but all injuries aside, the Lions' didn't benefit from his quarterbacking like they had in the past. There were plenty of other players who also struggled, but Stafford had the most dramatic problems of the year.

Best Rookies: Ryan Broyles and Riley Reiff. There's no doubting the bright future of these two, as circumstance and injury prevented them from having a bigger impact than they should have had. We saw brilliance in flashes, though, as both players played meaningful minutes and starred. In 2013, both will be counted on to improve more and make the most of their playing time.

Worst Rookie: Bill Bentley. Injuries intervened most here, as Bentley was shut down due to them in 2012. If not for that, he could have become a top contributor. Now, we're forced to wonder if Bentley can be a capable contributor consistently. Heading into 2013, Bentley has plenty to prove, especially as he will be fighting for a position and perhaps even a starting spot.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on his personal Twitter account @SportsGuyTheMax or on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: Calvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jason Hanson, Nate Burleson, NFL, Scott Linehan, Titus Young

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