Lions running back Kevin Smith can't watch during the final seconds as Detroit loses to Green Bay to fall to 0-16. The rookie committed a costly taunting penalty on the Lions' final drive.
Morry Gash / AP Enlarge
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Nobody will remember the Detroit Lions came close to winning their last game. All anyone will know - now and forever - is 0-16.
The worst record in NFL history, a dubious distinction that will permanently stain everyone involved.
The Lions lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-21 yesterday, making them the first team to go winless through a 16-game season. The 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) were the last NFL team to complete a season without a victory.
"I've got to live with this," center Dominic Raiola said. "I've been here eight years. This is on my resume."
It's also on the resume of Lions coach Rod Marinelli, who faces an uncertain future.
"No competitor wants to go through something like this," Marinelli said. "This is not fun to go through, obviously. But there's people going through a lot worse than this."
Asked what the next step might be if he does keep his job, Marinelli said, "Let me get through step one first."
The Lions' last loss didn't come without a fight. After falling behind 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Kevin Smith's nine-yard touchdown run put Detroit back within a field goal.
But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers responded with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver, and the Lions' Dan Orlovsky threw an interception on fourth-and-27 with three minutes left, dooming Detroit to futility of historic proportion.
"It's just kind of numb," veteran kicker Jason Hanson said. "It's here. It's been coming, though, a train rolling down the tracks for a while. We tried to stop it. We couldn't."
The Lions were building toward this for years and now have lost 23 of their last 24 games. The 0-16 record will be a lasting testimony to the Matt Millen era. With Millen as president of the team from 2001 until he was fired on Sept. 24, Detroit won only 31 games - none this year, of course.
It's so bad that some Lions can't remember the last time they won.
"I don't ever want to be a part of this again," Orlovsky said. "We haven't won since, November of '07, maybe? I don't even know the last time we won a game."
The Lions haven't won since Dec. 23, 2007, actually, when they beat Kansas City. Green Bay is where this woeful streak began at the end of last season. Since then, the Lions have lost 17 straight and have been outscored 551-281.
Marinelli has gone 10-38 in three seasons. His future has not been announced, but team owner William Clay Ford has decided the leaders of the front office, Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, will be back in some capacity.
"I am positive that every aspect of what we do as a football team has to be rethought and analyzed," Hanson said.
Orlovsky was 22-of-42 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Lions, whose bid to steer clear of the record book came undone in large part because of ill-advised penalties.
Rodgers was 21-of-31 for 308 yards and three touchdowns for the Packers (6-10), and Ryan Grant and DeShawn Wynn rushed for 106 yards each.
After a disappointing season of their own, Rodgers said the Packers wanted a win to build momentum for next season. Left unsaid was that they didn't want to be the only team to lose to the Lions this year.
"We didn't want to lose, no, we didn't," Rodgers said. "But really it's not on your mind once the game starts. I didn't even think about it until the fans started chanting in the fourth quarter. They played hard, they really did."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn't want any part of the 0-16 discussion.
"I want to politely try to avoid the question here," McCarthy said. "That's tough. That's a tough deal. But we were focused on winning the game."
With the Lions trailing 14-7 early in the third quarter, safety Kalvin Pearson put a hard hit on Grant to cause a fumble. He recovered at the Packers' 11.
Calvin Johnson caught a pass from Orlovsky and broke three tackling attempts to score a tying 14-yard touchdown with
10:20 left in the third quarter.
But the Packers drove for a 36-yard field goal by Mason Crosby early in the fourth quarter. After a three-and-out by Detroit's offense, Lions linebacker Ernie Sims' penalty for a late hit out of bounds on Grant played a key role on a drive that ended with a five-yard pass from Rodgers to fullback John Kuhn.
The Lions weren't finished, as Orlovsky used two long completions to John Standeford to set up Smith's touchdown with
After the ensuing kickoff, Rodgers reared back and threw deep to Driver, who blew past cornerback Leigh Bodden and ran in for a touchdown.
Orlovsky led the Lions back into Packers territory, but a taunting penalty on Smith moved the Lions back near midfield, and Orlovsky threw an interception to Nick Collins.
"It was a very bad, selfish decision," Smith said. "I let my emotions get the best of me."
The penalties got Raiola riled up.
"Stupid," Raiola said. "You're in a game like that, you can't do that. Just dumb."
And very much like the Lions.