Legendary Field Goal Beat Lions 40 Years Ago

As we all know, it seems that the Lions have lost a number of games in the final seconds after taking the lead, the most recent being the collapse against the Jets a week ago.

Well here’s one older Lions fans will never forget.

Forty years ago, on November 8, 1970, Detroit was stunned when New Orleans kicker Tom Dempsey split the uprights with a record breaking 63-yard field goal with seconds remaining in a 19-17 victory for the Saints.

With the Lions trailing 16-14, third-year quarterback Greg Landry had driven the team down to within field goal range, but with 24 seconds left in the game, he inexplicably called timeout instead of letting the clock wind down. Sound familiar?

The Saints then took the kickoff followed by quarterback Billy Kilmer throwing a desperate sideline pass to Al Dodd that stopped the clock with 11 seconds left and the ball on the New Orleans 45.

Lined up at the 37 yard line, with two seconds left, out came New Orleans kicker Tom Dempsey, a straight-on kicker who was born without toes on his right foot and who wore a special modified shoe with an enlarged toe surface.

There was no way this overweight guy with the stub foot could make a 63-yard field goal. The longest on record at the time was 56 yards accomplished by Baltimore’s Bert Rechichar 17 years earlier.

The Lions only half-seriously lined up as there was no apparent attempt to even try to block the kick.

Years later, Lions Hall of Famer Joe Schmidt, who was the team’s head coach, said when Dempsey booted the ball it “sounded like a cannon.”

There it went, end-over-end, high into the fall sky as spectators, players, and television viewers saw the ball sail through the uprights at Tulane Stadium as the clock ran out with the final score, Saints 19, Lions 17.

The Lions were absolutely devastated. At least one player on the replay can be seen dropping to his knees in shock.

Tom Dempsey quickly became a national celebrity as the kick was replayed all over the country. However because of his special shoe, controversy ensued and in1977, the NFL added a rule known as the “Tom Dempsey Rule,” that stated that “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.”

Dempsey’s record kick has never been officially broken but Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos on October 25, 1998 equaled it in a game against Jacksonville.

As Lions fans we all know that sick feeling when you think a victory is at hand only to be disappointed. But 40 years ago, Tom Dempsey’s boot was really a kick to the stomach.