It’s been a rough season for Lions fans, and you deserve a gift. So here it is, the video conclusion to, arguably, the most memorable Lions game in your lifetime.
It was Dec. 21, 1997, the season finale in the Silverdome, and the Lions pulled out a 13-10 victory against the Jets to reach the playoffs. Barry Sanders needed 131 yards to top 2,000 and he blasted past it with 184, finishing with 2,053.
Drama? It was unreal, capped by the horrible injury to Lions linebacker Reggie Brown.
With the Lions trailing 10-6, Sanders sprinted 47 yards on the final play of the third quarter, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Lions crowd any louder. His 15-yard touchdown won it. An amazing oddity: Sanders had only 23 yards before the last play of the third quarter, and rolled up 161 the rest of the game. He became the third runner in NFL history to top 2,000, joining Eric Dickerson and O.J. Simpson.
Triumph was overshadowed by tragedy, as Brown fell to the turf after making a tackle in the fourth quarter, gasping for life while emergency crews performed CPR. He suffered a career-ending spinal-cord injury, and even in Sanders’ greatest individual moment, there was a sad, sobering storyline.
At the end, a composed Bobby Ross, who went 9-7 in his first season as Lions coach, crossed the field to greet semi-youthful Jets coach Bill Parcells. Sanders’ teammates then lifted him on their shoulders and carried him off. Few Lions games in history could match the drama and tension of this one.
The Lions lost in the playoffs the following week at Tampa Bay 20-10, but then, you probably already knew that.