The Lions have proudly hosted a home game on Thanksgiving Day since 1934.
It is as reliable of a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey, stuffing, and a tryptophan induced nap.
This year’s match-up of the Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions was a Thanksgiving Day overtime brawl that turned out to be one of the most exciting and controversial games that the NFL has ever seen.
The Lions lost on Thanksgiving for the 9th consecutive year. But their loss and the Texans’ win was suspenseful from beginning to end.
The Texans had a league best 9-1 record coming into this battle, while the Lions at 4-6 were trying to rectify their pre-season hopes of making the playoffs, which had significantly dissipated during the first 10 weeks of the 2012 season.
With the loss on Thursday, the Lions are out of legitimate playoff contention in the incredibly strong NFC, while the Texans continue to lead in the battle for AFC home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Hero of the Game was Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt, who had a monstrous game with three sacks, five tackles, and two passes deflected on the day. No. 99 recorded a sack on the 1st play of the game, and is one of the leading candidates for defensive player of the year.
He finished the game with 14.5 sacks on the season, only one-half sack back from the NFL-leading Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers. Watt has an astounding 13 passes deflected on the season, which makes any quarterback looking down-field vs. the Texans as nervous as a politician on election night.
An honorable mention for the Hero of the Game goes to the Lions’ star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson ended the game with 140 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions, despite being double-teamed on almost every play. Johnson lived up to his alias “Megatron” by playing in this match-up despite nursing dual knee and thumb injuries.
The Zero of the Game goes to Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz. It is extremely rare that the head coach of an NFL team is primarily responsible for a loss, outside of a predictable or poorly timed play call. Most of the time, player execution, or lack thereof, is the actual culprit of NFL wins and losses.
In the 3rd quarter, with 6 minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the period, Texans’ running back Justin Forsett was credited with an 81-yard touchdown, which is the longest run in Texans’ franchise history.
In actuality however, Forsett was stopped and tackled down at the 26 yard line for a gain of seven when his left elbow touched the turf, after Forsett absorbed some defensive contact.
To his credit, Forsett kept his feet and continued running, as the referees did not blow their whistles to stop the play. As a reminder, all scoring plays must be automatically reviewed now without any action on the part of the opposing head coach.
However, Schwartz emotionally threw the red challenge flag onto the field, in an immediate visceral reaction to the incorrect touchdown call.
As soon as Schwartz threw the challenge flag, he sealed the fate of his team by denying them the benefit of automatic review. It can be reasonably assumed that head referee Walt Coleman would have reversed the call, but instead Schwartz’s action resulted in a 15-yard penalty and upheld the phony Forsett touchdown.
A dishonorable mention for the Zero of the Game goes to the petulant Titus Young Sr., who continued his established pattern of bad behavior in his short career. Prior to the Thanksgiving Day game, he was deactivated for disciplinary reasons resulting from conduct detrimental to the team.
He was a literal zero for the Lions, as Young Sr. prevented himself from being able to help his team in a game that they desperately needed and lost by the smallest of margins.