Over the past decade, the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns have been the two worst teams in the NFL. This year has been no different, as entering today they were a combined 2-16 on the season. It only stood to reason that their battle today would be one of attrition. Almost everyone figured it would be a snoozer not even worthy of getting attention on NFL Redzone. Instead, it was one of the most entertaining games of 2009.
The Lions scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to earn a thrilling 38-37 victory over the visiting Browns. But, of course, in true Detroit-Cleveland fashion, the game ended with two colossal errors (each by the Browns).
On the final play of the game, a Matthew Stafford(notes) pass fell incomplete and the Browns began to celebrate their second win of the year. But Hank Poteat(notes) was flagged for pass interference, which gave the Lions another down with no time on the clock.
There's more: On the Poteat play, Stafford was hit when he released the ball and stayed down on the field in obvious pain. The rookie clutched his non-throwing shoulder as he ran off the field and was replaced for the final play by Daunte Culpepper(notes). With a cold Culpepper under center, the Lions prepared to snap the ball from the 1-yard line with the clock reading zeroes to get the go-ahead score. Amazingly, Cleveland called timeout before Culpepper could get the snap. This stoppage allowed Stafford to come back in the game and he promptly hit Brandon Pettigrew(notes) for the game-tying touchdown. A Jason Hanson(notes) extra point sealed the game.
Not that anyone should expect good coaching decisions by Eric Mangini, but that timeout was borderline criminal. Culpepper had to rush onto the field with no warning, having stood on the sideline for the previous three hours. The Lions had no timeouts and were in the confusing spot of having to run another play after having thought the game had ended. Sure, the Browns had to do the same on the defensive side, but the burden is on the offense. The last thing any coach wants to do in that situation is give an unprepared team time to regroup.
Among the amazing stats from the rest of the game:
• The Browns scored 13 more points today (37) than they had in two-thirds of their other games combined (24).
• Cleveland was averaging 214 yards of offense per game. The Browns gained 439 against Detroit.
• With the win, the Lions avoided becoming the first NFL team in history to go 2-32 over a 34-game stretch.
• Detroit's defense was statistically the worst in the NFL before today. After today: Yeah, they're still the worst. But how about that offense?!
• Unless they were in attendance, most Lions fans couldn't see the victory. Because it wasn't a sellout, the game was blacked out in the Detroit area.