Memories of the Detroit Lions being victimized by long-range kickers

Steve Brownlee

So there was a weird coincidence in the two record-setting field goals the Detroit Lions have been involved in, the one on Sunday and the other going back to Nov. 8, 1970.

Of course, the Lions were victimized in each of those games.

But the coincidence is that both final scores were 19-17.

I heard that mentioned on one TV program that night, but haven’t seen anything about it in print or in other media.

But a Google callup of that game just over 50 years ago shows, yes, a final score of 19-17, the same as this past Sunday’s final.

In this Nov. 8, 1970, file photo, the New Orleans Saints' Tom Dempsey, right, moves up to kick a 63-yard field goal as teammate Joe Scarpati holds the ball and the Detroit Lions' Alex Karras, left, rushes in while the Saints' Bill Cody, second from left, blocks in New Orleans. Dempsey played in the NFL despite being born without toes on his kicking foot and made the record 63-yard field goal. (AP file photo)

Last weekend’s game, for those with really bad memories, was played at Detroit’s Ford Field and ended with the Baltimore Ravens’ Justin Tucker kicking a 66-yard field goal as time expired.

That ball hit the crossbar — the horizontal bar at the bottom of the goal post — and bounced over.

Tom Dempsey’s 63-yard field goal that set the record in 1970 was also kicked as the clock ran out, but at Tulane Stadium, the college stadium where the New Orleans Saints were playing at the time. Their current home, the Superdome, didn’t open until 1975.

The feat was spectacular because his kick was a full seven yards farther than the record that had been set by Bert Rechichar of the Baltimore Colts in 1953.

Dempsey’s feat stood up as the record — or a share of the record — for 43 years, and even with Tucker’s new standard, the record has only been extended three yards beyond what Dempsey reached.

Dempsey, from what I always remember when I see either grainy or washed-out color footage of the feat, only had half of his kicking foot and wore a flat-front shoe.

A Wikipedia page on the man said he was born in Milwaukee and attended high school and college in Southern California. It also said he was born without toes on his right foot and without fingers on his right hand.

Dempsey’s kick was actually taken further back on the field than Tucker’s was, on the Saints’ 37-yard-line as opposed to the Ravens’ 44 for Tucker.

How could that be? It’s because it wasn’t until 1974, four years after Dempsey’s kick, that the NFL moved the goal posts from the goal line — the line that determines touchdowns — to the end line, or the back of the end zone, 10 yards further back.

Remember when you see footage of the Ice Bowl and players had to contend with running into goal posts in the end zone? That was pre-1974 goal post placement.

I remember talk at the time of the change that field goals were becoming too prevalent as kickers were getting better, and this was an attempt to make field goals tougher.

Another 20 years later in 1994, the NFL made another change where missed field goals allowed the opposing team to take over at the spot the field goal was tried, instead of, from what I remember, the 20-yard line or the line of scrimmage of the miss.

The Wikipedia page on Dempsey ends with a mention of his death on April 4, 2020, less than a month into the coronavirus pandemic and that he died of complications from COVID-19. He was 73.

So there’s today’s history lesson. Now onto the picks:


Today, 8:20 p.m.

Jacksonville at Cincinnati — I’ve got to believe Cincy thinks of itself as good enough to not rest of its laurels after posting a rare win over Pittsburgh. Bengals, 31-21.


Sunday, 1 p.m.

Washington at Atlanta — A pair of 1-2 teams with something in common — each has its only win over the Giants, Washington 30-29 and Atlanta 17-14.

I just think that its “the Football Team” that has underperformed more, so banking on that, I’ll take Washington, 24-19.


Houston at Buffalo — Sure, the Texans could always pull off the upset, but in what world could you make that the odds-on prediction? Bills, 37-24.


Detroit at Chicago — OK, so the Lions are tied for the worst scoring defense in the league, having given up 95 points in three games. But if the Bears had played the 49ers, Packers and Ravens, I think that number would easily be over 100. Lions, 36-33.


Carolina at Dallas — The Panthers have quietly built a 3-0 record. It’s quiet because two of those wins are over the Jets and Texans, though the win over the Saints still looks impressive. I just don’t see Carolina QB Sam Darnold taking advantage of a still-leaky Dallas defense yet, especially with Christian McCaffrey out. Cowboys, 42-30.


Indianapolis at Miami — A couple of up-and-down teams that have one win between them. The visitors have a banged-up QB in Carson Wentz, but the home team has showed little with backup signal caller Jacoby Brissett. Colts, 22-20.


Cleveland at Minnesota — Is this about the time the Browns are ready to lay an egg? Nah, not yet, not with the following three weeks Cleveland having a road game at the Chargers, then home games against undefeated Arizona and Denver. Browns, 27-23.


New York Giants at New Orleans — The Saints won Sunday with an old-school — read Tampa Bay-like — Jameis Winston. I certainly don’t see the Giants making Winston and New Orleans pay for its mistakes. Saints, 20-16.


Tennessee at New York Jets — These Not Ready for Prime Time Players aren’t ready to beat a balanced offense like Tennessee’s. Titans, 27-19.


Kansas City at Philadelphia — Do you see similarities between Dallas and KC? Both score like crazy and hope their defenses can make one — please, just one — stop all game. It worked for the Cowboys on Monday night against these Eagles. Chiefs, 37-23.


Sunday, 4 p.m.

Arizona at Los Angeles Rams — Aah, I hope this is Fox’s Sunday game as the Packers’ game in this time slot will be on CBS. Two 3-0 teams colliding, I’ll take the more proven team and at home. Rams, 33-29.


Seattle at San Francisco — Both teams coming off bitter losses. Of course, San Fran is bitter because they could’ve beaten the Packers; the Seahawks because they lost by 13 points to Minnesota. 49ers, 24-17.


Baltimore at Denver — This is Teddy Bridgewater’s chance to prove himself, but also Denver’s defense to prove something after beating up on the winless Giants, Jaguars and Jets. The difference is the Ravens’ leaky defense, only 10 points better than Detroit. Broncos, 30-24.


Pittsburgh at Green Bay — These teams met in Super Bowl XLV, the Packers’ most recent title in 2011. It won’t be happening in 2022, and that’s not because of anything with Green Bay. Packers, 38-7.


Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Tampa Bay at New England — The Brady-vs.-Belichick Bowl. But someone should’ve told Coach Bill not to bring his knives to a gunfight. Buccaneers, 33-21.


Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Las Vegas at Los Angeles Chargers — If they played in Vegas, I’d like the Raiders. But Vegas needs a hiccup somewhere to get grounded again, and this looks like the natural place for that to happen. Chargers, 34-27.


Last week — 11-5, 69 percent. Season — 31-17, 65 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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