Paperless Lion: The Thing on the Wing

Column: It seemed the team was scared of what they saw watching from the sideline. The likes of Joe Schmidt, Yale Lary, Lou Creekmur, Pat Summerall, etc etc watched. The offense sputtered, coughed, misfired, backfired, stalled, and all but died. They, or more accurately Jason Hanson, did post 9 points.


Spike804 (from 'The Den' Message Board) wrote Sunday the Lions match with Dallas seemed like an episode of "The Twilight Zone." It really was one exquisite nightmare. Even Rod Serling might be proud, if it wasn’t so darned difficult to watch.

Bafflingly, the offense ruined a perfectly good opening drive by trying a trick play involving two quarterbacks. After moving the team across midfield, Rookie Joey Harrington and second-year man Mike McMahon both were in the backfield. Harrington motioned to the right slot and McMahon took the snap, dropped back, looked around and ran into the right side of the pile for about a yard. Weird city and a real drive killer as the team ended up punting.

Making things seem especially surreal were that many of the Lions greats from the 1952 and 1953 championship teams gathered for the weekend game against the Cowboys. The team feted the group, who watched from the sidelines, apparently making every Lions starter nervous.

Speaking of nervous: You may remember the episode with William Shatner in which he plays a man taking his first plane trip after suffering a nervous breakdown aboard a previous flight. Traveling with him is his wife, who has gotten him out of the hospital.

Every time Capt Kirk looks out the window, he sees a demon dancing on the wing, ripping the cowling off an engine. As he watches the Thing tear away pieces of the plane’s powerplant, this demon becomes aware of being watched and flies over to the window, pressing its hideous face right up against the Lexan or whatever they used back in 1962.

What’s worse, every time Kirk tells his wife what’s going on, and she looks out the window, she can’t see it. The Thing sort of peels off and flies back to the tail somewhere. Really a frightening effect.

Not to belittle Mr.’s situation, Lions Fans know the feeling, because that is what most everybody at Ford Field and watching on the telly saw. And if we saw it, you know Matt Millen, Marty Mornhinweg and the stars and supporting cast who played boffo on defense, but stunk up the place on offense, saw it, too.

In fact, it seemed the team was scared of what they saw watching from the sideline. The likes of Joe Schmidt, Yale Lary, Lou Creekmur, Pat Summerall, etc etc watched. The offense sputtered, coughed, misfired, backfired, stalled, and all but died. They, or more accurately Jason Hanson, did post 9 points.


While the QB had his ups and mostly downs today, I've got to tell you Joey Harrington did not get much help. Watching the game through the trusty Costco camo 7-X, I saw:

1. Four balls bounce of Lions receiver's hands or numbers in the first half, by my mental count. It seemed there were a couple more in the second half. I don't blame just the receivers in this. The QB had to rush his throws and couldn't give it the right "english." I don’t care if it’s the Olde English "L" as long as it gets closer to the guys wearing Honolulu blue and silver than the other players.

2. The Lions receivers, if they can be called that, also had to contend with a defensive back or two most of the day. It seemed on every play, even the completions, they had a Cowboy or two riding herd on to their jerseys. It’s something that’s got to be corrected in the off-season, personnel-wise, because they do not have the ability or speed or smarts to separate from the defenders on short, medium, or long patterns.

3. James Stewart is not Edgerrin James. The guy cannot bust runs open to the outside, repeatedly and on-demand, especially early in the game. His strength is straight-ahead rushing, where he gets to deliver the wood to linebackers and defensive backs. Too bad he needs holes to do that. Otherwise, he gets clobbered, like he did most of Sunday.


No, its no Twilight Zone at Ford Field Sunday. It was a real-live monstrosity of another kind. The game must have seemed especially monstrous and familiar to Schmidt and the Lions of Olde along the sidelines. Those fellows knew what was missing since 1962, and that area is offense.

Like the creature on the wing of the airplane, they looked inside the cabin and marveled at how comfortable, warm and safe the cabin of the 2002 NFL really is. Back when they played, players were lucky to make enough money not to have to bust their chops seven months out of the year doing other things. Today’s TV money makes it possible for the Lions to pay people no longer on the roster millions of dollars.

Given the vote, I’d say let Charley Ane, Vince Banonis, Lew Carpenter, Gus Cifelli, Jimmy David, Dorne Dibble, Don Doll, Tom Dublinski, Sonny Gandee, Jim Hardy, Jim Hill, Gil Mains, Bob Miller, John Prchlik, Bob Smith, Dick Stanfel and LaVern Torgenson have some of today’s TV dough. Give some to assistant coach Aldo Forte, who also watched, a piece of the pie. After all, these are some the men who played the biggest roles in making the NFL what it is today and making today’s players the wealthy fellahs that they all are. Speaking of which:

While the offense stunk up the joint, the real Honolulu blue and silver lining in this cloudy afternoon performance was the rookie also showed flashes of brilliance. He connected on a couple or three would-be first downs that were nullified by penalty. He’d get knocked down after a throw and bounce back up again. In doing so, he kept his cool and stayed in command. Proof is in the final drive to take the lead and the final score, 9-7.

Especially for Schmidt and the other outstanding Lions players of the 1952 and 1953 championship teams, watching a young Lions QB who could lead a team back in the fourth quarter is a most welcome sight, one that may bring back happy memories. Having such a marquee star is one that has been missing around Motown for most seasons since 1962 or so.

But for this Twilight Zone of a game, the Lions stars rose to the occasion. Then, again, they haven’t really left since 1952, have they? The defense has always been a Motown strength. And, after a shaky start to the 2002 campaign, the Lions defense picked the right day to stop the NFL’s all-time leading ground gainer, Emmitt Smith.

In fact, while the offense looked ugly, the defense was beautiful. It really couldn’t have picked a better game to do so, especially with so many monster Lions watching from the wing.

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