1991 Detroit Lions Season
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1991 Detroit Lions Season
1991 Detroit Lions season
OwnerWilliam Clay Ford, Sr.
Head coachWayne Fontes
General managerChuck Schmidt
Home fieldPontiac Silverdome
Division place1st NFC Central
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (vs. Cowboys) 38-6
Lost NFC Championship (at Redskins) 10-41
Pro Bowlers
AP All-Pros

The 1991 Detroit Lions season was the franchise's 62nd season in the National Football League, their 58th as the Detroit Lions. It stands as the team's best season since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. [1]

The team finished 12-4, won the NFC Central Division, and appeared in the playoffs for the first time since 1983; it also marked the team's first winning season since 1983. The Lions finished the season undefeated in the Pontiac Silverdome, including playoffs, and the team did not lose a game at an indoor facility the entire season, having made trips to Indianapolis and Minnesota during the year.

This season also saw the Lions debut of wide receiver Herman Moore, the team's 1991 first round draft pick who went on to set records as part of an explosive passing offense later in the decade. The 1991 season was the last season that saw the Lions sweep the Packers until 2017. It was also the last time the Lions would win at Lambeau Field until 2015. From 1992 until 2014, the Lions lost 24 straight games in Wisconsin (three in Milwaukee, 21 in Green Bay) against the Packers. As of 2020, this season is also the last where the Lions won a playoff game.

The season

Statistics site Football Outsiders summed up Detroit's season thus:[1] "The Lions were one of the most inconsistent teams of the year, which is what happens when you win 12 games but lose 45-0 (to Washington) and 35-3 (to San Francisco). Otherwise, it's a little hard to tell why they ended up only 17th in [efficiency]. The Lions didn't have too many super-close victories, but did go 4-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They didn't particularly take advantage of long plays ... with only four gains of 50 yards or more. They did benefit a little extra from fumbles on defense, recovering 15 of 23. They also benefitted from poor opponent special teams...."

Detroit, according to Football Outsiders, had "a bit of an odd schedule; on the surface, it doesn't look like Detroit's schedule of opposing run defenses was that easy. The Lions missed the [league-leading] Eagles, but they did have to play six games against the teams ranked sixth through ninth in run defense [efficiency]: San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and Green Bay. Except running back Barry Sanders didn't play against Washington in Week 1, and he had only seven carries against San Francisco in Week 8. His two highest-carry games came against the two worst run defenses in the league, Miami and Indianapolis."

Season summary

The Lions were plagued by injuries most of the season. Wide receiver Aubrey Matthews was lost for the season to a knee injury on a meaningless final play during a 45-0 loss to the Washington Redskins during Week 1. Starting quarterback Rodney Peete was lost for the season in the 9th game of the year, a 34-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Second string quarterback Erik Kramer, who had won the backup quarterback job from Andre Ware (the team's #1 draft pick from the season before) during training camp, guided the team the rest of the way. Although Peete's injury was serious, the most devastating injury was the career-ending injury that befell guard Mike Utley in a Week 12 game against the Los Angeles Rams. Utley suffered a severe injury to two of his cervical vertebrae, rendering him paralyzed from the chest down and ending his career. Unaware of this, Utley gave a thumbs-up gesture to the crowd as he was being wheeled from the field. For the rest of the season Lions players wore a decal with Utley's number 60 on their helmets to honor their fallen teammate.

Utley's injury gave inspiration to a team that at that point in the season was struggling, and the team won its last six games to steal the division title away from the Chicago Bears, whose Week 17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers sealed their first division title since 1983. The Lions earned a bye into the divisional round where they once again faced the Cowboys, who had beaten the Bears the week before to get their first playoff win since 1982. The two teams met in the postseason for the first time since 1970 when Dallas won 5-0.

Although the Cowboys held Lions' star running back Barry Sanders in check for most of the game, Kramer threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns and Sanders closed the scoring with an electrifying 47-yard touchdown run for a 38-6 victory. It was the Lions' first--and, to date, only--postseason victory since they won their last league championship in 1957.

The win earned the Lions a return trip to Washington for the NFC Championship Game and a chance to avenge the 45-0 defeat in the season opener. The Redskins jumped to an early 10-0 lead when Kramer was sacked and fumbled on the Lions' first possession, then was intercepted on the second. The Lions fought back with a touchdown pass to receiver Willie Green and a field goal by kicker Eddie Murray in the second quarter to stay within one score at the half. The Lions trailed 17-10 at the break, but failed to score again as Washington scored 24 points in the second half to put the game away. Ware replaced Kramer as quarterback in the fourth quarter. He promptly threw an interception which was returned by Darrell Green for the game's final touchdown. The 1991 Lions' season thus ended the way it started, with a loss to the Redskins at RFK Stadium; getting outscored 86-10 in the two games.

The Lions finished the season with a 9-0 record at home, counting their playoff win. The team did not play particularly well on the road: outside of their wins at Indianapolis and Minnesota, their only other outdoor wins came against the Green Bay Packers in Week 16, and the eventual AFC Champion Buffalo Bills in Week 17; the margin of victory in those games were four and three points respectively and the Lions gave up 30 or more points in three of their four road losses, two of which came to teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs (San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

The Lions road win against the Packers in Week 16 of the season stood as their last until 2015, the Lions owned a 25-game road losing streak in Wisconsin.


NFL Draft

1991 Detroit Lions draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 10 Herman Moore *  Wide receiver Virginia
3 58 Reggie Barrett  Wide Receiver Texas-El Paso
4 91 Kevin Scott  Defensive Back Stanford
5 118 Scott Conover  OT Purdue
6 151 Richie Andrews  K Florida State
7 178 Franklin Thomas  TE Grambling State
8 205 Cedric Jackson  RB TCU
9 231 Darryl Milburn  DE Grambling State
11 285 Slip Watkins  LSU
12 318 Zeno Alexander  Arizona
      Made roster    +   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career





Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Record Game Site Attendance
1 September 1 at Washington Redskins L 0-45 0-1 Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium 52,958
2 September 8 Green Bay Packers W 23-14 1-1 Pontiac Silverdome 43,132
3 September 15 Miami Dolphins W 17-13 2-1 Pontiac Silverdome 56,896
4 September 22 at Indianapolis Colts W 33-24 3-1 Hoosier Dome 53,396
5 September 29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 31-3 4-1 Pontiac Silverdome 44,479
6 October 6 Minnesota Vikings W 24-20 5-1 Pontiac Silverdome 63,423
7 Bye
8 October 20 at San Francisco 49ers L 3-35 5-2 Candlestick Park 61,240
9 October 27 Dallas Cowboys W 34-10 6-2 Pontiac Silverdome 74,906
10 November 3 at Chicago Bears L 10-20 6-3 Soldier Field 57,281
11 November 10 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 21-30 6-4 Tampa Stadium 37,742
12 November 17 Los Angeles Rams W 21-10 7-4 Pontiac Silverdome 60,873
13 November 24 at Minnesota Vikings W 34-14 8-4 Metrodome 51,644
14 November 28 Chicago Bears W 16-6 9-4 Pontiac Silverdome 78,879
15 December 8 New York Jets W 34-20 10-4 Pontiac Silverdome 69,304
16 December 15 at Green Bay Packers W 21-17 11-4 Lambeau Field 43,881
17 December 22 at Buffalo Bills W 17-14 (OT) 12-4 Rich Stadium 78,059

Game summaries

Week 1

1 234Total
Lions 0 000 0
• Redskins 21 1473 45
  • Date: September 1
  • Location: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
  • Game start: 8:05 p.m.
  • Game weather: 76°F; wind 15
  • Referee: Gordon McCarter
  • TV announcers (TNT): Skip Caray and Pat Haden


Week 2

1 234Total
Packers 0 770 14
• Lions 7 3103 23


Week 3

1 234Total
Dolphins 3 703 13
• Lions 3 770 17


Week 4

1 234Total
• Lions 0 71610 33
Colts 10 0014 24


Week 5

1 234Total
Buccaneers 0 300 3
• Lions 14 7010 31


Week 6

1 234Total
Vikings 7 733 20
• Lions 0 3021 24


Week 8

1 234Total
Lions 0 300 3
• 49ers 0 21140 35


Week 9

1 234Total
Cowboys 0 1000 10
• Lions 3 71014 34


Week 10

1 234Total
Lions 0 1000 10
• Bears 3 0107 20


Week 11

1 234Total
Lions 7 077 21
• Buccaneers 7 1670 30


Week 12

This was game that Lions Guard Mike Utley suffered a career ending spinal injury. While he was carted off the field, he gives the Lions a "thumbs up".

1 234Total
Rams 3 070 10
• Lions 0 7014 21
  • Date: November 17
  • Location: Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Michigan
  • Game start: 4:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: Indoors (dome)
  • Referee: Bernie Kukar
  • TV announcers (CBS): Verne Lundquist and Dan Fouts

Week 13

Week 14

1 234Total
Bears 0 600 6
• Lions 10 033 16
  • Date: November 28 (Thanksgiving Day)
  • Location: Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Michigan
  • Game start: 12:30 p.m.
  • Game weather: Indoors (dome)
  • Referee: Dale Hamer
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall and John Madden


Week 15

1 234Total
Jets 14 033 20
• Lions 14 10100 34


Week 16

Erik Kramer led the Detroit Lions to victory with 2 touchdown passes and no turnovers.[15]

This was the last time the Lions won in Wisconsin until 2015.[16]

1 234Total
• Lions 7 0014 21
Packers 7 307 17
  • Date: December 15
  • Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • Game start: 12:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 10°F; wind 15
  • Referee: Larry Nemmers
  • TV announcers (CBS): James Brown and Randy Cross


Week 17

1 234OTTotal
• Lions 0 00143 17
Bills 0 7070 14
  • Date: December 22
  • Location: Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 35°F; wind 22
  • Referee: Tom White
  • TV announcers (CBS): James Brown and Randy Cross



NFC Central
(2) Detroit Lions 12 4 0 .750 6-2 8-4 339 295 W6
(4) Chicago Bears 11 5 0 .688 7-1 9-3 299 269 L1
Minnesota Vikings 8 8 0 .500 3-5 8-6 301 306 L1
Green Bay Packers 4 12 0 .250 3-5 3-9 273 313 W1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 13 0 .188 1-7 2-10 199 365 W1


NFC Divisional Playoffs

1 234Total
Cowboys 3 300 6
Lions 7 10147 38

The Lions entered the 1991-92 NFL playoffs as the NFC's 2 seed behind the #1 seed Washington Redskins. Following wild card weekend where both the home teams lost to the away teams (Chicago to Dallas and New Orleans to Atlanta) the Cowboys were the highest remaining seed and thus earned a trip to Pontiac, Michigan to play the Lions. Dallas entered the game with an ongoing quarterback controversy. Incumbent Troy Aikman had gone down with injury earlier in the season. The backup Steve Beuerlein came in and lead the team to the playoffs. Beuerlein had started in the wild card win over Chicago and the Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson named him the starter for this game as well. As for the Lions they had to battle quarterback issues of their own. Rodney Peete, Andre Ware, and Erik Kramer all spent time as the Lions quarterback. After Peete went down it was Kramer who emerged as the starter and would start this playoff game as well. Despite not having a franchise quarterback the Lions had a lot to feel good about going into this game. Star running back Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Brett Perriman, Lomas Brown and Kevin Glover gave them plenty of talent on offense while Chris Spielman, Ray Crockett and Bennie Blades were the stars on defense. The most exciting storyline going into the game was Barry Sanders going up against Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.

From the very beginning of the game the Lions were dominant. Since the team knew Dallas would focus on stopping Barry Sanders and the run game, Detroit gambled by focusing on Erik Kramer and the pass game instead. Dallas was not ready to defend it. After the Cowboys went 3 and out on their first drive, Kramer drove the Lions downfield and scored on a touchdown pass to Willie Green to take a 7-0 lead. Detroit would never relinquish it. Despite the Lions only putting up another 10 points before halftime, Dallas's offense couldn't find the end zone and only scored two field goals before the end of the second giving Detroit an 11-point lead at halftime and thus Beuerlein's day was over. Johnson inserted Aikman into the game but he wasn't able to pick apart Detroit's defense either and wouldn't even score any points while the Lions continued to steamroll Dallas. Even with the lead Detroit kept allowing Kramer to throw instead of turning to Sanders and it paid off as he completed 29 out of 38 passes for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns helping Detroit to a 38-6 victory. This was the Lions' only playoff win of the Barry Sanders era and as of 2020, stands as their last playoff victory.

NFC Championship

1 234Total
Lions 0 1000 10
Redskins 10 71014 41

The Redskins crushed the Lions, 41-10, as quarterback Mark Rypien completed 12 out of 17 passes for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. Detroit quarterback Erik Kramer was sacked 5 times, three of them by Washington linebacker Wilber Marshall. Lions running back Barry Sanders, who rushed for 1,548 yards during the season, was held to just 44 yards on 11 carries. As of 2020, this was the first and only time that the Lions made an appearance in the NFC Championship Game.

Awards and honors

  • Mel Gray, NFL Kickoff Return Leader
  • Mel Gray, All Pro
  • Barry Sanders, All-Pro
  • Barry Sanders, NFC Pro Bowl Selection
  • Barry Sanders, Bert Bell Award[19]
  • Lomas Brown, Pro Bowl Selection
  • Lomas Brown, All Pro
  • Jerry Ball, Pro Bowl Selection
  • Jerry Ball, All Pro
  • Chis Spielman, Pro Bowl Selection
  • Chris Spielman, All Pro
  • Bennie Blades, Pro Bowl Selection
  • Bennie Blades, All Pro


  1. ^ Football Outsiders: 1991 DVOA Ratings and Commentary
  2. ^ "1991 Detroit Lions Draftees". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  4. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  5. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  6. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  7. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  8. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  9. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  10. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  11. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  12. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  13. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  14. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  15. ^ http://www.nfl.com/player/erikkramer/2501656/gamelogs?season=1991
  16. ^ Hanzus, Dan (November 15, 2015). "Lions stun Packers, break long losing skid in Green Bay". NFL.com. Retrieved 2015.
  17. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  18. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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