December 16, 2013 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

Lions suffer 'kick to the stomach' with improbable field goal

Detroit — Does anyone remember Tom Dempsey? He was the New Orleans Saints kicker who ruined my childhood with an incredible 63-yard field goal in 1970 that beat the Lions at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

Likewise, the Ravens' Justin Tucker ruined a party atmosphere at the House of Blues Monday night before a national television audience. His incredible 61-yard field goal won the game, giving the Ravens an 18-16 victory and putting the Lions in deep danger of not making the playoffs.

Somewhere a child’s evening was ruined in Metro Detroit -- along with a few hundred thousand adults. This was a kick to the stomach to the Lions and their fans. This was cruel and the sports gods deserve a 15-yard taunting penalty.

“When that field goal went in it was a nice little kick to the stomach,” Lions safety Glover Quin said. “I won’t lie.”

I felt the same way on a bright Sunday afternoon. I was 11 and planned on playing football with my boys after the Lions game. The Lions led 17-16 when Dempsey lined up for that field goal. I never expected him to make it. He had a block-shaped wooden shoe because he was born with no toes on his right foot.

The kick kept sailing and sailing and went over the goal post, ruining our afternoon of football. Nobody wanted to play. We were in shock.

The winds of the NFL still change quickly today. Before that incredible kick by Tucker the Lions remained in control of their destiny to win the NFC North. Now if Chicago and Green Bay win next week the Lions are eliminated from the playoffs and the Bears and Packers play for all the marbles the following week.

That’s incredible.

The Lions (7-7) are now a game behind the Chicago Bears (8-6) and half-game behind the Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) with two games to play.

The House of Blues turned into the House of Boos and now we are left to wonder how this team will recover. A once-explosive offense splatters when it matters.

After popping Green Bay for 40 points three weeks ago the Lions offense has scored just 22 points in the two games since.

Offense hits skids

And if it makes you feel better the officials blew some calls. But the Lions must wonder why they have turned lethargic.

Afterward, I felt a cruel need to peek inside the Ravens dressing room. I wanted to see the men that ruined football around here.

“I feel like we are blessed,” Ravens safety Matt Elam said. “This is unbelievable.”

Now Lions coach Jim Schwartz is on the hot seat with fans, even though I am not convinced he is on the hot seat with William Clay Ford Sr. He has the only vote that counts.

But be careful about taking the next big step. The last time the Lions lost on a long improbable field goal they brought Matt Millen to town.

The Lions have been victimized by turnovers and appeared to dumb down the offense to minimize turnovers. They ran a lot. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hit the Ravens with short, quick passes. But he still threw three interceptions.

The good news is the turnovers only resulted in six Ravens points. The bad news is the Lions could not overcome those six points.

In the biggest game of the season the Lions stars sputtered. Calvin Johnson dropped a couple of passes — just plain dropped them. He appeared to play hurt, but when your name is Megatron you are supposed make plays.

Matthew Stafford is now just a mediocre quarterback. It is a shame because the defense and the offensive line deserved better. The offensive line opened up holes and produced a pretty good running game led by Reggie Bush, who rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries.

The defense was solid. Defensive end Willie Young may have played the game of his life.

Now the Lions are on life support. Destiny is no longer in their hands. They must rely on a hope and a prayer because a Hail Mary kick doomed them.

tfoster@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/terryfoster971

Calvin Johnson can't hang onto a pass in the open field in the first quarter. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News