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O'HARA: Top 5 duos in Lions history

Here’s another list to go with this summer’s offerings, and this one has a twist.

It’s the Top 5 duos in the Detroit Lions history.

There are a lot to choose from, and a lot of great players got left out – especially those of the more recent era.

The guidelines are pretty simple. The choices are based on what two teammates at the same position did in a single season, as opposed to their careers.

There might be a surprise at No. 1, although the statistics are hard to argue against. And another surprise at No. 5 – because of the absence of stats for the players of that era.

Here are my Top 5 Detroit Lions duos. As always, feel free to disagree.

No. 1Wide receivers: Herman Moore, Brett Perriman, 1995.

Why No. 1: Record production.

Stats line: They combined for 231 catches, 3,174 receiving yards and 23 TDs in 1995. The combined catches and receiving yards are still the most by two teammates in one season.

Moore had a league-high 123 catches for 1,686 yards and 14 TDs. Perriman had 108 catches for 1,488 yards and nine TDs.

Sharing the wealth: What made the accomplishment more remarkable was that Barry Sanders was second in the league in rushing with an even 1,500 yards and added 398 receiving yards on 48 catches. Three teammates combined for more than 5,000 yards.

Pressure performance: There was no garbage time for Moore and Perriman to pad their stats. After a 3-6 start, the Lions won their last seven games to make the playoffs. It was the Lions’ fourth playoff appearance in five years, and Moore and Perriman were teammates all five seasons.

No. 2 – Quarterbacks: Bobby Layne, Tobin Rote, 1957.

Why No. 2: Two for the title.

Stats line: Layne was 4-3 as a starter before going down for the season with a broken leg in Game 11. Rote was 4-1 in five starts as his injury replacement, and 2-0 in the playoffs to lead the Lions to their third NFL championship in six years.

Rote memory: The pressure was on when he started Game 12. It was win or go home, and Rote was outstanding. The Lions won at Chicago in the final game to make their record 8-4 and tie the 49ers for first place in the Western Conference.

In a one-game playoff, the Lions rallied from a 27-7 third-quarter deficit for a 31-27 road win over the 49ers to reach the championship game against the Cleveland Browns.

Winning touch: Rote was at his best in the two playoff games, with five TD passes against one interception. In a 59-14 win over the Browns he passed for 280 yards and four TDs and had a passer rating of 146.4. He also ran for a TD.

No. 3 – Runners: Barry Sanders, Tommy Vardell, 1997.

Why No. 3: Barry Sanders had the greatest individual performance in franchise history in 1997 and would have been No. 1 alone, but the category for this list is “duos,” and that’s why it’s No. 3.

Stats line: Sanders rushed for his career high of 2,053 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. He added 33 catches for 305 yards and three TDs.

In his first year as head coach Bobby Ross added a fullback to the offense. Vardell was signed to fill that role. In 16 games with 10 starts, he chipped in with six rushing TDs and 122 yards on 32 carries.

Barry, Barry, Barry: And more Barry. He carried the team. After a slow start – 53 yards in the first two games – critics questioned adding a fullback. In truth, Sanders could have gained a thousand yards every season running behind a high school marching band. He didn’t need much help.

He rushed for an even 2,000 yards in the last 14 games and hit the 100-yard mark in all 14. He finished off the season with 184 yards on 23 carries and the winning touchdown against the Jets to put the Lions in the playoffs as a Wild Card with a 9-7 record.

No. 4 - DBs: Jack Christensen, Yale Lary 1953.

Why No. 4: Safeties first, championship duo.

Stats line: Christensen and Lary were ball-hawking safeties and future Hall of Famers. In a 12-game regular season they combined for 20 turnovers – 12 interceptions and three fumble recoveries by Christensen, five interceptions by Lary.

Double down: After winning the 1952 championship, the Lions came back to repeat in 1953 with a 17-16 win over the Browns in the championship game. Christensen and Lary had other big seasons, including eight interceptions each in 1956, but the 1953 season was special because it made the Lions back-to-back champs.

No. 5 – Defensive tackles: Roger Brown, Alex Karras, pick a year.

Why No. 5: They formed the greatest defensive tackle duo in franchise history.

Stats line: Since sacks did not become an official stat until 1982 – and their absence is one of the NFL’s great statistical injustices to individual players – it’s hard to quantify by numbers in any given year where they rank on any list.

Honors: Karras came to the Lions as a first-round pick in 1958. He played 12 seasons, through 1970, with a year off in 1963 from a league-imposed suspension for gambling on sports. At 6-2 and 248 pounds, he was only slightly undersized for his era, but no interior lineman was quicker or more powerful off the snap.

Brown was a fourth-round pick in 1960 out of what is now called Maryland-Eastern Shore. At 6-5 and 300 pounds, he was regarded as the first big, athletic interior defensive lineman. He played 10 seasons, with the first seven in Detroit before being traded to the Rams.

Honors: Karras made four Pro Bowls and was first team All-Pro three times from 1960-65. Brown made five Pro Bowls and was All-Pro twice as a Lion from 1962-66.

Bottom line: They might not have the official stats, but the honors attest to their greatness.

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