Sunday, November 11, 2018

Motown Vs South Beach

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

If you're looking for a weekend getaway in the sun and get away from the cooler weather in Metro Detroit, this was the time to schedule it.

On Saturday Night October 20, 2018, the Detroit Red Wings traveled to Sunrise, FL to face the Florida Panthers at 7 pm.

Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium at 1 pm, the Detroit Lions made it's every eight-year visit to face the Miami Dolphins.

This past spring, there was a similar situation which took place.

The Detroit Pistons faced the Miami Heat on a Saturday Night, while the Tigers played the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach on Sunday.

Due to medical issues, I was limited to one contest and elected to see the Tigers game. This would be the latest Spring Training venue that we saw and that stadium was dynamite.

The common denominator with all these games is that it's nice to be able to sleep in my own bed during these occasions.

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The Red Wings entered their contest with the Florida Panthers as the only winless team in the NHL with a 0-5-2 mark with two points.

Detroit was playing a Panthers club that was also struggling with a 1-2-2 record with four points.

The Red Wings always seem to play well at the BB&T Center.

Detroit's record against the Panthers was 7-10-2-4.

There was no shortages of chants that said "Let's Go Red Wings."

As we were leaving the game, I saw a Red Wings fan wear a Harold Snepsts white jersey.

How many millennials remember this guy?

After the first period, it looked like the Red Wings were destined for yet another loss spotting the Panthers a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period

But Detroit woke up in the second period scoring three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead.

Florida would score a later goal in the third period to tie the game at 3-3, but Detroit and goaltender Jimmy Howard showed resilience in overtime to come away with a 4-3 triumph.


As I went down to the Red Wings locker room, I saw GM Ken Holland, and he was the most relieved man in the building when I asked him how it felt to get that first win.

When the game was over, I spoke with Dennis Cholowski, who was playing in this arena for the first time, about his thoughts about playing in front of the Metro Detroit transplants.

"It's pretty darn cool and we have a loyal fan base," Cholowski said. "They follow us everywhere through thick and thin. So it's pretty cool to see that."

Cholowski said he was relieved to see the team get that first win out of the way.

"For sure, we were yearning for it and we've wanted it for awhile now. Thankfully, we got the first one out of the way."

Coach Jeff Blashill said getting a win anywhere would have been important but also chimed in on Detroit's home away from home.

"We're fortunate we got lots of Red Wings fans throughout the country," Blashill said. "Certainly, whenever we come here there is a good number of red and white so that's a great thing. We play pretty good in this building and I thought certainly parts of tonight was real good."

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Through the years, I've covered the Lions many times on the road.

But the place which is No.1 on my list is when they face the Miami Dolphins.

When I first became a sports writer, the Miami Dolphins were the first team that I covered working with the legendary Don Shula.

Because I was young, I was a bit intimidated by him. But as I worked with him often, he used to joke around with me and I used to ask for words of wisdom, which he was great about giving me.

I covered the Dolphins when they played at the now demolished Orange Bowl.

I interviewed late Owner Joe Robbie, who built the current stadium which I've seen two Super Bowls along with Lions and Miami Hurricanes games.

I also saw a game when Nick Saban was the Dolphins coach and former Lions QB Joey Harrington faced the Green Bay Packers and legend Brett Favre.

Too many memories to document.

This brings us back to the South Florida/Detroit Showdown Weekend.

The Lions entered the Dolphins game with a 2-3 mark, while Miami is looking for its first 5-2 start since 2003.

The Dolphins are 5-2 in their past seven meeting with the Lions, but Detroit has won each of the past two, including a 34-27 win in the last meeting in South Florida on December 26, 2010.

Today's intrigue would focus on whether Lions Coach Matt Patricia, formerly of the New England Patriots, could use his divisional knowledge to gain a scouting advantage of the Dolphins enabling Detroit to climb to 3-3.

One area Patricia won't have as much knowledge about is Dolphins QB Brock Osweiler, as he will start instead of signal caller Ryan Tannehill, who is sidelined due to a shoulder injury.

On this day, Lions would defeat the Dolphins 32-21.

The Lions scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time this season while snapping Miami's streak of 13 consecutive games without allowing an opening drive touchdown.

Detroit recorded 248 rushing yards as a team, the most since logging 249 yards vs Indianapolis on November 23, 1997.

Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson finished the day in career highs with 19 attempts for 158 yards (8.3 avg.). He added two receptions for 21 yards to finish with a career-most 179 yards from scrimmage. One of his runs was a 71-yard rush in the second quarter.

QB Matthew Stafford finished the day 18-of-22 passing for 217 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 138.1.

The Lions left South Beach feeling good about themselves by improving their record to 3-3.

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But how indeed the fortunes have changed for both squads.

After the Red Wings left South Florida they went on a two-game losing streak.

But in their last 10 games, Detroit is 7-3 and through 17 games, the Red Wings have improved their record to 7-8-2 with 16 points.

As for the Lions, they've lost three consecutive contests and are 3-6, as they reside in last place in the NFC North Division.

With their playoff hopes diminishing and a lost season, Coach Patricia finds himself with a lot of work to do to gain the confidence of a fan base that believes his hiring was a huge mistake.

Nonetheless, if you're a Detroit Sports Fan, who was in South Florida for the weekend, going 2-0 was money well spent.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com. He's a member of Detroit Sports Media and also hosts The Sports Exchange on the weinetwork.com.


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