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TWENTYMAN: 5 yards that kept Lions out of playoffs

With the playoffs kicking off this weekend, it's worth reflecting back on Detroit's 2017 season and taking a look at why they are sitting at home watching the action unfold this weekend instead of being a part of it.

Football truly is a game of inches, and as proof, here's a total of just five yards that helped keep the Lions out of the playoffs.


Situation: 3rd & goal at Falcons 1-yard line with 12 seconds remaining in 4th quarter.

Trailing 30-26 with just 12 seconds remaining in the game, the Lions faced a 3rd and goal at the Atlanta 1-yard line after throwing incomplete passes to Theo Riddick and Kenny Golladay on first and second down.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Golden Tate for what appears to be a game-winning touchdown with less than 10 seconds left on the clock, but as we all know, all scoring plays are reviewed. Upon review, it was determined Tate was touched down with a knee on the ground before the ball crossed the goal line.

Because there were less than 10 seconds left on the clock, and the Lions had no timeouts remaining, by rule, there's a 10 second runoff to the clock. That resulted in the game being over and the Lions losing in stunning fashion. Instead of going 3-0 and having a crucial head-to-head win over Atlanta, which ended up being a factor down the stretch, the Lions fell to 2-1 on the then young season.

Final score: Atlanta 30, Detroit 26


Situation: 4th & goal at Steelers 1-yard line with 4:31 left in 3rd quarter.

Trailing 13-12 late in the third quarter, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell decided against taking a chip-shot field goal to take the lead, instead opting to go for the touchdown on fourth and goal at the Steelers 1-yard line.

Stafford is sacked for a 1-yard loss on the play, and the ball is turned over to the Steelers at their own 2-yard line. After a run and an incomplete pass on 2nd down, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit a streaking JuJu Smith-Schuster down the middle of the field on 3rd and 9 for a 97-yard touchdown that extended the Steelers' lead to 20-12.

How would this game have changed had the Lions converted the 4th and 1 or simply kicked the field goal to take the lead?

We'll never know.

Final score: Pittsburgh 20, Detroit 15


Situation: 2nd and 10 at Lions 1-yard line with 5:13 left in the game

The Lions had just come all the way back from a 45-10 deficit to trim the lead to 45-38 on an A'Shawn Robinson pick-six. Detroit's defense held New Orleans to a three and out following the Robinson score, meaning Detroit would have a chance to come all the way back and tie the game.

Detroit rookie punt returner Jamal Agnew muffed the Saints punt at the Lions 11-yard line following the three and out. He was able to recover the ball, but all the way back at the Lions 1-yard line.

Stafford threw an incomplete pass from the 1-yard line on first down. On second down, he was hit as he threw the ball, and was intercepted by Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan in the end zone for a touchdown.

What would have happened had Agnew not muffed the punt? How would things have changed had Stafford and the offense completed a pass on first down and gotten out of the shadow of their end zone?

Final score: New Orleans 52, Detroit 38


Situation: 3rd and 1 for Carolina at their 34-yard line with 12:13 left in 2nd quarter

The Lions were up 10-3 at this point following a nine-play, 78-yard scoring drive. Carolina was facing a 3rd and 1 at their own 34-yard line. A Lions stop here would have given the ball back to the Lions. Who knows, maybe with a chance to break the game open on their next possession with a touchdown?

Anticipating run, Detroit stacked the box on 3rd and 1 and allowed tight end Ed Dickson to get behind them for a 57-yard gain down to the Detroit 9-yard line. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton would hit running back Christian McCaffrey on a 6-yard touchdown pass two plays later to tie the game at 10-10.

Plays of 50-plus-yards on 3rd and 1 can be back breakers.

Final score: Carolina 27, Detroit 24


Situation: 2nd and 1 for Cincinnati at the Lions 1-yard line with 5:56 left in 3rd quarter

The Lions struggled all year to defend the play-action pass around the goal line. In a game they had to win in Cincinnati to keep their playoff hopes alive, it burned them again.

The Lions were ahead 10-6, and the Bengals were facing 2nd and goal at the Lions 1-yard line. A simple play-fake by quarterback Andy Dalton froze the Lions linebackers, and allowed tight end C.J. Uzomah to come open in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown catch. The score gave the Bengals a 13-10 lead at the time.

How would a goal line stand there have changed the course of that game?

Final score: Cincinnati 26, Detroit 17

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