TOP 20 GAMES OF 2012

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Game 11: Lions at Titans Week 3

Over the Hill

What constitutes a great game?

Is it big-time stakes, like a championship of some sort? A showcase of premier players playing at an insane level? Or does an instant classic draw its allure from the classic nature of its matchup?

Well, in the case of our No. 11 Game of 2012, none of those factors were present.

Still, the Week 3 bout between the 0-2 Tennessee Titans and 1-1 Detroit Lions was better than the NFC Championship Game, which garnered the No. 17 spot on this list.

On the second point, the Titans and Lions do boast a few premier players, but Calvin Johnson was the only one who showed up, hauling in 10 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown. In this wild game, the biggest plays came from a bunch of nobodies: Alterraun Verner, Darius Reynaud, Shaun Hill ...

Lastly, in terms of the matchup, Lions at Titans isn't exactly circled on the schedule when NBC is looking to fill up the "Football Night in America" slate. With how this contest played out, though, perhaps Dick Ebersol dropped the ball. (OK, the Patriots-Ravens Week 3 Sunday nighter was pretty doggone good.)

Isn't it something when Paul Tagliabue's vision of a parity-driven National Football League rears its pleasant head? You know, when the least-heralded matchup drives all of the highlight shows because it's such a fun game.

Hello, Lions-Titans.

Highest Scoring Games (Combined Points) – 2012 Season
  Outcome Combined Points
Lions at Titans 44-41, Titans* 85
Colts at Patriots 59-24, Patriots 83
Panthers at Saints 44-38, Panthers 82
Jaguars at Texans 43-37, Texans* 80
Patriots at Bills 52-28, Patriots 80
* Overtime games

Much of the excitement of this contest was due to one of those less-heralded "nobodies" -- an unathletic, 32-year-old backup QB who made this seemingly unattractive affair an afternoon to remember. Subbing for an injured Matthew Stafford, Hill entered the game with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter, trailing by two touchdowns -- a dire situation, to say the least. And, would you believe it, Hill brought Detroit back!

First, Hill guided the Lions on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, culminating with a sweet throw -- an eat-your-heart-out-Bernie-Kosar sidearm ball that landed right in Megatron's belly for six.

Then came the coup de grace: a 46-yard Hail Mary toss to Titus Young. This game-tying score came with a little help from Tennessee's Akeem Ayers. The linebacker, who had 17 tackles in this game, was supposed to hang out shy of the goal line to prevent a tipped ball from falling to a waiting Lions receiver. Ayers instead played the ball, tipping it to the very guy he was supposed to be defending. Frankly, it was the kind of blunder the Lions usually make. Weird.

The Lions' prayers were answered (at least for the moment) when Shaun Hill's hail mary pass bounced right into the waiting arms of Titus Young.

What was even weirder was the wild overtime that ensued, complete with the Lions returning to "cursed" status (more on this below).

Here's the bottom line: If you were driving an AT-AT on the ice planet Hoth, and suddenly were beamed to the planet Earth to watch this game, would you be bitten by the football bug?

Let's see … In the first quarter, a perfectly executed throwback lateral led to a punt-return touchdown. In the fourth quarter, a perfectly executed onside kick led to Young's Hail Mary touchdown. Oh, and did I mention the four 60-plus-yard scores sandwiched in between?

Yeah, I think this'd be a good introduction to the game for just about anyone.

Did You Know? The Titans became the first team in NFL history to have five touchdowns of 60 yards or longer in this game. Here's the rundown:

Can't-Miss Play: Washington's catch certainly deserves another mention.

Washington was running full speed on a seam route, with Jacob Lacey covering him stride for stride. The Titans wideout jumped over Lacey's pad level, yet, at the same time, reached around his back to catch the ball.

As the picture illustrates, to say Washington was covered when he made this catch is a bit of an understatement.

Washington was so well covered that this was the only way he could snag the ball. And he did it, brother.

Stat line of the Day: Jake Locker completed 29 of his 42 passes for 378 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Yes, that Jake Locker.

Historical Symmetry: Pretty much every football fan not living in Zamunda in January of 2000 remembers the "Music City Miracle."

Well, Tennessee got its first touchdown in this instant classic with the same throwback play -- only this time, on a punt. Reynaud fielded the punt on the left side of the field, then pivoted and threw a pass -- a clear lateral -- to Campbell. From there on in, it was smooth sailing, 65 yards to the goal line.

On a related note, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was actually a linebackers coach for the Titans during the "Music City Miracle" game.

Boneheaded: Tennessee drove 72 yards on the opening possession of overtime before settling for a 26-yard field goal from Rob Bironas, giving the Titans a 44-41 edge. Per the new OT rules, Detroit needed to at least match that field goal to extend the game.

The Lions proceeded to take the ball to Tennessee's 7-yard line before facing a fourth-and-1. Chip-shot field goal to tie it up? Not so much. Detroit lined up on the ball, and suddenly Hill was trying to bust up the middle for the first down.

A Schwartz gamble gone awry. … Or so we thought.

In the postgame, it was revealed that Detroit was actually just trying to draw the Titans offsides, but center Dominic Raiola mistakenly snapped the ball.

Was it a bad move? From this vantage point -- and with the benefit of hindsight -- the Lions probably should have just kicked the field goal. But I definitely see Schwartz's logic in trying to get a cheap penalty and a cheap first down.

Why This Game is No. 11: Really, the question should be, Why isn't this game ranked higher?

As awesome as Lions-Titans was, neither team even came within shouting distance of the postseason in 2012, nor did this ballgame have much in the way of a "butterfly effect." It's also about the 127th-most attractive matchup the NFL has to offer.

But make no mistake, if you own Game Rewind, you can't do much better than watching a replay of this sucker.

Visit NFL Game Center for more on Lions at Titans.

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