Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lions Losing Streaks Falling

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When the Detroit Lions snapped their 26-game road losing streak to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 19, it marked the second straight week that they ended a futile drought.

On December 12 at Ford Field, a 7-3 win over the Green Bay Packers halted a 19-game losing streak to NFC North opponents.

During the Lions Post-Game Press Conference in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium after Detroit removed a Gorilla off it's back against the Bucs, Head Coach Jim Schwartz candidly told the Media that We'll find another streak to create.

So out of respect to Schwartz, I found three streaks for the coach that would either continue or also come to an end.

1) The Miami Dolphins are 7-2 in the all-time series, but have won five straight games dating back to 1994. On November 23, 2006, former quarterback Joey Harrington led the Dolphins to a 27-10 win on Thanksgiving Day.

2) The Miami Dolphins are 4-0 at home in two stadiums starting with the now demolished Orange Bowl and their current home Joe Robbie Stadium.

3) In this series, the month of December hasn't been kind to the Lions.

Miami rolled to a 34-7 win on December 15, 1973 at the Orange Bowl.

Six years later, the Dolphins whipped the Lions 28-10 on December 9, 1979 at the Pontiac Silverdome.

On December 25, 1994, Miami came away with a Christmas Night Prime-Time 27-20 victory at Joe Robbie Stadium.

Finally, the Dolphins improved to 4-0 in December as they defeated the Lions 33-30, on 12-7-97 at Joe Robbie Stadium.

So what was going to give as the Lions made another Christmas time appearance on December 26, 2010 wearing their blue home jerseys facing former U-M Wolverines QB Chad Henne and Left Tackle Jake Long?

The Dolphins (7-7) were 1-6 at home going into their Joe Robbie Stadium Finale. Their lone win occurred on November 14 as they defeated the Tennessee Titans 29-17.

When the contest was over, the Lions received a belated Christmas Gift from Henne. Going into the contest, the former Wolverines signal caller was 266-430 for 2,952 yards with 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. By the end of the afternoon, went 29-44 for 278 yards with two more interceptions and one touchdown.

Both interceptions occurred in the fourth quarter. The first was picked off by Nathan Vasher at the 3:48 mark and four plays later led to a 47-yard field goal by Dave Rayner which tied the game at 27-27 with 2:44 remaining in the game.

With 2:25 left, Henne's pass short in the middle that was intended for Davone Bess was intercepted by DeAndre Levy at the Miami 30-yard line and returned for a touchdown. Demonstrating a little showmanship, Levy took a 30-yard run and worked his way to the middle of the field and it looked like a 50-yard run. Yet the end result turned out to be Detroit 34-27 win over the Dolphins. As the clock read 2:11, the Dolphins fans were totally stunned. The only word you'd hear in the Press Box was "Wow."

Levy said the team scouted Henne's tendencies and knew he has a history of making mistakes late in games.

"We knew he had some shaky numbers," Levy said. "A lot of people from the outside look at that and say that's the reason they struggle with so many play makers. But we never want to underestimate a guy. We've had second, third string quarterbacks that, you know, people may not expect much out of come in and win games. We never overlook anybody. We want to come in and execute and do what we're supposed to do."

After both interceptions, 66,731 fans were booing Henne out of the stadium.

Yet when the contest was over, Lions Coach Jim Schwartz didn't know about the three streaks written here in Miami. Just the three-game winning streak the team has and winning a pair in Florida in consecutive weeks against teams that were playoff contenders leading Detroit's development throughout the year.

"Going back if you look at our losses, I don't know if there was a common vein in any of them in any of them," Schwartz said. Each one was a little different. It is a credit to the team. We learned from those. We have not gotten beaten the same way twice. We are used to playing in close games. We are playing with quarterbacks like Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton even though they are second and third stringers this year that have a lot of experience this year. So it is not new for any of these guys."

Now the Miami Dolphins find themselves 7-8 and finished the season 1-7 at home.

The Lions improved to 5-10 and 2-6 on the road. There is no doubt that the next opponent they scout will be live as the Minnesota Vikings contest against the Philadelphia Eagles has been postponed to Tuesday night at 8 pm due to a Snow Storm in Pennsylvania.

It's not hard to figure out which team will be tired as they Lions now have a built in advantage with the extra rest as they look hope to finish the season with a 6-10 record and four-game winning streak.

In addition to the three historical notes listed above, Lions Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh racked up his ninth sack of the season which tied Jerry Ball for the third most at his position in Detroit history.

Suh said the team is playing with heart not being a playoff contender and, "It's more of an understanding in the locker room we all understand that we're not going to the playoffs. We have our own schedule we need to work on for and work at, finish the season out and get ready for next year."

Before Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson injured his ankle, he had four receptions for 52 yards. Johnson endured the Lions 0-16, 2-14 seasons and has watched the team progress to five victories with one more game to go.

Was a pleased at the outcome of the contest?

"Three wins-in-a-row man, we hadn't really seen that since I've been here. I might have seen it in my first year, I'm not positive," Johnson said. "I don't really remember. But we put some good things together, good December. And these things will carry over. I think it's guys just focused in and we're not killing ourselves with mistakes. That's what we were doing most of the season. We'd been in all the games, the games were close and draw some penalties and stuff like that. These last few weeks, it hasn't been the same thing."

Hill was 14-26 222 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was a 53-yard strike to Running Back Jahvid Best in the fourth quarter which saw Miami's lead shrink to 27-24.

What did Hill see in the Dolphins coverage which enabled his running back shock the crowd at Joe Robbie Stadium?

"They were playing two man, he came out on the weak side of the formation and they were pre-occupied with Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettegrew, " Hill said. "He just came out there free and took off."

When the Lions airplane took off from South Florida, it did with the team improving to 7-3 all-time against the Dolphins. There was no more five game losing streak to Miami. In the eyes of the late Ernie Harwell it was "Long Gone."

Detroit did it despite yielding the second highest rushing total to the Dolphins with 154 yards.

They left the Sunshine State with a 2-0 record in successive weeks.

In this very building on November 27, I watched the Miami Hurricanes lose 23-20 in overtime to the University of South Florida. Later that night, the Hurricanes fired Head Coach Randy Shannon.

For some reason, I have a feeling that Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano will experience the same fate. The team's final game is Sunday January 2nd in New England against the 13-2 Patriots. The Patriots currently have a seven game winning streak.

If the Dolphins lose, Miami will finish with a 7-9 season. On October 4, the Patriots drilled the Dolphins 41-14 in a Nationally Televised contest on ESPN.

Miami's only chance at an 8-8 season is if the Patriots rest some of their players now that they have clinched home field advantage in the AFC throughout the playoffs.

Miami experienced another National Embarrassment when the Chicago Bears blanked the Dolphins 16-0 in Prime-Time on the NFL Network on Thursday November 18.

When the NFL schedule was released in April, who would have thought that when the 2010 season was over that the records of these two teams could be potentially so close? But should Detroit conclude its season 6-10 and Miami 7-9, that's what we're potentially looking at.

Regardless, there are no more Ghosts in the Lions closet in South Florida.

Yet before the game, since 1970, the Miami Dolphins still owned the second best record in the NFL with a 379-249-2 mark, yet that seems like a distant reality since they have two Super Bowl titles to show for their efforts. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the best team with a 382-246-2 mark and six Super Bowl titles.

Judging by the Lions recent futility and Miami's overall success, one would think these two teams didn't need to be mentioned in the same sentence. Miami was 7-9 in 2009 and Detroit 2-14. Now they're much closer to one another in the standings.

On December 26, 2010, none of the streaks or records mattered. Three were snapped.

The only things that mattered was Detroit's win total is 2 1/2 times more than last year and with a Sunday win against the Vikings, there could be an improvement of three times last years totals.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

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