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Mitchell: Don’t Miss A Game; NFL Enters Most Wonderful Time Of Year

Eddie Jackson #39 of the Chicago Bears and Prince Amukamara #20 of the Chicago Bears celebrates a defensive play against the Detroit Lions during the second half of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 10, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Is it possible that one NFL game, whether it’s a win or a loss, can be the defining moment in an NFL season? I say emphatically – yes. This is the time of year you should watch for those season-defining moments.

That may seem a bit crazy but I’ve seen it happen over and over throughout the years both as a player and a spectator. Think of “the catch“, or the “immaculate reception”, not only were those games defining for a season, they defined dynasties for decades.

I’ve been a participant of one of these moments as a player both from the losing and the winning end of it. Ironically, it was the San Francisco 49ers each time.

In 1994 the 49ers came to Detroit after an embarrassing loss to the Eagles at home where Steve Young was benched. Halfway through our game, we were beating them by 14 points.  It was looking like the end was near for the 49ers and a great win for the Lions was about to be clinched.

Not so fast, the 49ers pulled off a dramatic come from behind win and went on the win the Super Bowl. Later, they credited that game in Detroit as the moment that changed their entire season.

Fast forward to 1995, the 0-3 Detroit Lions took on the 3-0 Super Bowl champion 49ers on Monday Night Football, back when MNF meant something.

It was going to be a blood bath. The Lions were on their way to public humiliation in front of a national audience.  We beat the 49ers and became one of a hand full of teams to start 0-3 and make the playoffs.  It was definitely the defining moment of that season.

Truth be told it was the defining moment for Lions offensive coordinator Tom Moore. Before the game, we had a bye week and scraped our entire offense. With the new offense, we beat the 49ers and went on to have one of the most prolific offensive seasons in NFL history to that point.

Later, Tom Moore took that offense to Indianapolis and some guy named Peyton Manning made a Hall of Fame career out of it.

You’re welcome, Peyton.

This Season’s Defining Moments

I love when these defining moments happen, and it’s usually at this time of the season when you see it most.

Teams that have a near .500 record are fighting to make a late-season move – which way they go so often depends on winning one game in the middle of the season.

This is really a great time to be watching the NFL season when so many teams are fighting to make the playoffs and so many seasons are won and lost right now. Quite frankly, it is one of the great dramas that unfolds each season so often in the NFL and a big part of what makes the NFL so popular.

I can hear John Facenda’s voice setting the stage, “On the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field,” the dramatic comeback, the win against all odds, the moment where legends are born and the losers fade away into obscurity.

This past weekend saw some unusual losses by teams that were sure to win. Is there a mid-season defining moment in these games? I mean come on, 7-1 Saints, you lose to the 1-7 Falcons, who by all intents and purposes are out of the playoffs.

Will this week’s loss be a wakeup call, a galvanizing moment, a dose of reality, or the beginning of the end for the Saints? Only time will tell.

What about the Chicago Bears, many including myself saw them as a Super Bowl contender at the beginning of the season. They were a tipped field goal from the NFC championship game, with a killer defense and a rising star at quarterback. Ok, maybe not a star, a bright shining flashlight with four AA batteries.

They got a much-needed win over the Lions to keep hope alive. How about the Tennessee Titans, beating the Kansas City Chiefs? No one is thinking about the Titans, but they are in it, and this week could be that one game to get them over the edge.

Let me point to a loss and it happened just a few weeks ago, Minnesota lost at home and everyone was all over Kirk Cousins, even his own teammates and specifically the wide receivers are calling him out.

Well, after that loss, Cousins has played lights out and the Vikings are a team you have to watch out for.

Win or lose this time of year so often is the moment that defines so much. Don’t miss a game right now because you just might miss the most important part of the season.

If you enjoyed this analysis check out my podcast, Helmets Off, wherever you find podcasts or on the KSL Sports app.

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