FOUR DOWNS: No more room for error, momentum shifters, bittersweet performance and soft play

Posted Dec 8, 2013

'Four Downs' following Sunday's 34-20 loss at Philadelphia features four momentum-shifting plays that swung things in favor of the Eagles


The Lions knew coming into Sunday’s game in Philadelphia that three wins in their final four games would clinch the NFC North title.

After falling flat in the second half and losing to the Eagles, 34-20, the Lions (7-6) know the pressure is now on the rest of the way.

“We are in a critical zone right now,” defensive end Israel Idonije said. “These remaining games are exponentially much more important now.”

The Lions have to quickly put this loss behind them and get ready for the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) on Monday Night Football at Ford Field.

“We’ve put a little bit of pressure on ourselves with this loss here,” linebacker DeAndre Levy said. “Obviously, these games here on out are going to be big for us.

“We have to seize the moment a little bit and embrace it and be ready to battle.”

The Lions had a little room for error the final quarter of the season, but not anymore.


Every football game has those momentum-shifting plays that ultimately decide the outcome.

In the case of Sunday’s loss, there were four plays in particular that changed momentum in the Eagles' favor and had a hand in the loss.

  • The Lions had a 14-0 lead in the third quarter when Eagles quarterback Nick Foles hit DeSean Jackson for 12 yards along the right sideline on 3rd and 11. The defense had a chance to force a punt and give the offense a chance to make it a three-score game with good field position. Foles hit Riley Cooper for 44 yards on the very next play and Jackson scored on 19-yard touchdown the play after that. Those three Eagles pass plays completely shifted momentum in this game.
  • Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was called for a roughing the passer penalty after Foles had thrown incomplete on a 2nd and 10 play in the fourth quarter. It appeared Fairley’s hit was a legal shoulder hit, but it was flagged. The Eagles got a first down and scored two plays later on a 40-yard run by LeSean McCoy.
  • “I looked on the replay on Nick’s (Fairley), it looked like he got his head to the side, but he got called for him hitting him with his head,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “We just have to play after that. That penalty doesn’t score a touchdown.”
  • Following that McCoy 40-yard touchdown run that trimmed the Lions lead to 14-12, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was called for a holding penalty on the subsequent two-point conversion try. The call was questionable, at best, and allowed the Eagles anther try at the conversion. Of course, they converted the second attempt and tied the game.
  • The Lions trailed 28-20 and were at the Philadelphia 24-yard line midway through the fourth quarter when center Dominic Raiola and quarterback Matthew Stafford clearly weren’t on the same page. Raiola snapped the ball when Stafford wasn’t ready and the ball raced by Stafford. He was unable to pick it up, the Eagles pounced on it, and it ended the Lions threat. Philadelphia scored on that possession to essentially put the game away at 34-20.


Jeremy Ross became only the second player in franchise history to return a punt (58 yards) and kickoff (98) for a touchdown in the same game. It hadn’t been done since 1977 (Eddie Payton).

“That was about the only offense we had for three quarters,” Schwartz said. “We moved the ball early, we fumbled in the red zone, but after that we didn’t get anything done on offense. Our defense couldn’t stop the run. Offense, we couldn’t get anything done. The best part of our team was Jeremy Ross returning the kicks and punts.”

Ross finished with a 43.0 kickoff return average and 35.5 on punts. He’s had a big return of some sort in the four games he’s been the primary return man for the Lions.

“I just tried not to get outside of myself when it comes to cutting,” Ross said of having such a great game in adverse weather conditions. “I think when players start to slip it’s because they get too wide. Cut real wide, I just try to keep everything tight in there and not over extend and slip and just keep my feet underneath me.”

Ross called the game bittersweet, however.

“It felt good to contribute and help my team, but it sucks about the loss,” he said. “You always wish you could come out with a victory.”

Ross did his part; his teammates simply let him down.


The worst insult to any football team is telling them they’re soft or they played soft. That implies weakness.

But when it comes from within its own locker room, Detroit, we have a problem.

“It’s a fun environment to play in, we just didn’t play well,” Levy said. “It’s not fun to lose and go out there and play soft. We played like crap in the second half.”

When pressed further about mentioning playing soft, Levy expanded on his comment.

“I think mentally and physically (we played soft),” he said. “We gave up a big play and we continued to fit runs the wrong way and miss tackles. I think everyone on defense had a breakdown here or there and it hurts. When we feel the momentum switch we have to get guys together and not panic and start focusing and keep battling.”