Cursed? The Lions have lost 19-17 on an NFL record kick two different times

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The last-second kick that defeated the Detroit Lions was the longest in NFL history. The Lions howled in protest, but no one listened. Fans and the media celebrated the kicker, and the record, and the final score: 19-17. 

This wasn't just the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. This was the Saints in 1970, too. 

Yes, just when you thought the Lions franchise could bear no more bad mojo, there's this: two different times when a record-breaking field goal was kicked in the NFL, they came against Detroit, in the final seconds, resulting in the exact same score: 19-17. 

Coincidence? Or curse?

When Justin Tucker kicked a 68-yarder off the crossbar at Ford Field on Sunday, he broke a 51-year-old record first achieved by Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints. Dempsey's kick to beat Detroit was 63 yards, in old Tulane Stadium. Much like the delay-of-game against Baltimore that wasn't called, Dempsey's kick came with its own share of controversy. 

Born without toes on his right foot, Dempsey wore a special shoe with a metal plate in the front. His kicking motion, then, was more akin to swinging a golf club than a foot. Not that anyone much cared; in 1970, Dempsey was kicking for the Saints, who were in just their fourth year of existence. When Detroit came to New Orleans that November, the Saints had won just one game. 

The teams scuffled for the first 59 minutes and 58 seconds, and the Saints had one final play left down 17-16. Coaches called for an all-or-nothing field goal. Holder Joe Scarpati set up on the Saints' 37, since prior to 1974, goalposts were on the front edge of the end zone, rather than the back. 

"If I had known it was 63 yards," Dempsey said in 2010, "I probably would have missed it, but I just knew it was a long way."  

The kick bested the previous mark of 56 yards, set in 1953 by the Colts' Bert Rechichar. Several players have matched Dempsey's mark, but until Denver's Matt Prater kicked a 64-yarder in 2013 against the Titans, no one had surpassed it. (In a strange little twist of fate, Prater was involved in an NFL record of his own on Sunday — while kicking for Arizona, his 68-yard attempt fell short, and Jacksonville's Jamal Agnew returned it for the longest touchdown in NFL history.) 

As with Tucker and the lack of a delay-of-game call, which would have made the kick a 71-yarder, protests welled up around Dempsey's use of a special shoe. Then-Cowboys exec Tex Schramm called it “the head of a golf club with a sledgehammer surface.” But Dempsey laughed off the idea that using the shoe was somehow unfair. 

"Unfair, eh?” he once said. “How 'bout you try kickin' a 63-yard field goal to win it with two seconds left — an' yer wearin' a square shoe. Oh, yeah, and no toes, either."

Seven years after Dempsey's kick, the NFL's competition committee passed the so-called "Tom Dempsey Rule," mandating that all kickers' shoes “must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.”

Dempsey scoffed at the rule. "My favorite saying about owners is, ‘If you threw them a jockstrap, they’d put it on as a nose guard.’ They don’t know a damn thing about football,” he said in 2010. He died in April of last year from COVID complications.

The shoe is now on display in the Saints' Hall of Fame. The record stood for more than 40 years.

And the Detroit Lions remain cursed. 

Saints kicker Tom Dempsey lets the record-setting kick fly. (Getty Images Archive)
Saints kicker Tom Dempsey lets the record-setting kick fly. (Getty Images Archive)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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