NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Detroit Lions are going to have to work a little harder this year if they still want to be known as the ‘‘Comeback Cats.’’
The Lions set an NFL record last season by rallying from deficits of 13 points or more in four games. On Sunday, they rallied twice before falling 44-41 in overtime to the Tennessee Titans.
‘‘I've been around a lot of crazy games, but I've never been around one like that,’’ Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. ‘‘Give credit to the Titans, they make the plays in the game to win and we didn’t make the plays.’’
Detroit (1-2) had a chance to at least kick a field goal in OT to tie the Titans and keep playing; Jason Hanson already had connected on four field goals.
Backup quarterback Shaun Hill, playing because Matthew Stafford strained a muscle in his right leg, tried a sneak on fourth-and-1, only to be stopped well short by the Titans (1-2). Schwartz said he planned to call a timeout if the Titans didn’t jump offside, but Hill took the snap.
‘‘I'll take full responsibility for that,’’ Hill said. ‘‘There was a miscommunication. It’s up to the quarterback to get all 11 on the same page, for sure. I'll just leave it at that. It was on me.’’
Schwartz tried to take the blame as well.
‘‘I was getting ready to call time out, but unfortunately that’s where we were,’’ Schwartz said.
Players from both teams met in the middle of the field talking and shaking hands with one official standing over the ball during one final review before another official finally announced the game that lasted 3 hours, 51 minutes was over.
Lions defensive end Cliff Avril said some of his teammates were taking the tape off their fingers with a minute left in regulation.
‘‘That was definitely a roller coaster,’’ Avril said.
The Lions had trailed 20-9 at halftime and scored 18 straight to go up 27-20 early in the fourth quarter. When Tennessee responded with 21 straight points, the Lions stayed alive by scoring two TDs touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of regulation. The Lions are the first team to do that and force overtime in league history.
Hill threw a 54-yard desperation pass to wide receiver Titus Young that was batted by linebacker Akeem Ayers into Young’s arms tying the game at 41.
In a game featuring big plays and suspect officiating, a total of 46 points came in the fourth period. Then in overtime, Rob Bironas’ third field goal put Tennessee ahead to stay after a drive that got its own boost from the officials.
They announced a replay review had overturned their ruling of a catch by Tennessee tight end Craig Stevens, with the ball hitting the ground as he rolled after being hit helmet to helmet by Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
After spending several minutes discussing where to place the ball, they put it at the Lions 29, giving the Titans 27 yards. The penalty apparently was marched off from the Detroit 44 instead of the Tennessee 44, where the play started.
‘‘Obviously, there was a miscommunication, or I don’t know what you call it, from an enforcement standpoint,’’ Schwartz said.
The game featured six plays of 46 yards or longer, with the Titans having five of those — all 61 or longer. The Titans even had three of those 71 yards or longer.
After Hill tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson with 18 seconds left, Amari Spievey recovered Detroit’s onside kick. Hill threw a short pass to the sideline to Nate Burleson who took at least a step before losing the ball when hit by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty.
An official threw down his bean bag, indicating a change of possession. Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner picked up the ball and started to run to the end zone before another official ran up and called it incomplete.
Because it was in the final 2 minutes, a review is left up to the officials and coaches cannot challenge. No replay review was done.
Officials had other issues in this game, including twice announcing the offense would replay third down when it was obvious the defense wanted to decline a penalty to force fourth down.
‘‘I may not agree with some of the things but ultimately, I thought they had control,’’ Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
Early on came shades of the most famous play in Titans history, the Music City Miracle to lift them past Buffalo in a January 2000 playoff game. Tommie Campbell caught a lateral from Darius Reynaud on a punt return and ran it 65 yards for a TD in the first quarter for Tennessee.
Jared Cook caught a 61-yard TD pass from Jake Locker in the second period as the Titans went up 20-9 at halftime.Continued...