1997 Detroit Lions season
Head Coach Bobby Ross
General Manager Chuck Schmidt
Home Field Pontiac Silverdome
Record 9–7
Place 3rd NFC Central
Playoff Finish Lost Wild Card Playoffs (Buccaneers) 10–20
Pro Bowlers
Previous season Next season
1996 1998

The 1997 Detroit Lions season was their 68th in the National Football League (NFL).

The Lions rebounded from a disastrous 1996 season, finishing 9–7 and qualifying for the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons – the best stretch in franchise history.

Bobby Ross replaced Wayne Fontes as head coach. The highlight of the season was Barry Sanders becoming the third player in NFL history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season. Sanders shared the 1997 Associated Press MVP Award with Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

As a team, the Lions set an NFL rushing record, gaining 5.51 yards per rushing attempt.[1] The Lions scored 379 points in 1997, the fourth-most of any team in the league. [2]


NFL DraftEdit

1997 Detroit Lions draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 5 Bryant Westbrook  Cornerback Texas
2 35 Juan Roque  Tackle Arizona State
2 54 Kevin Abrams  Cornerback Syracuse
4 130 Matt Russell  Linebacker Colorado
5 135 Pete Chryplewicz  Tight end Notre Dame
5 161 Duane Ashman  Defensive end Virginia
6 168 Tony Ramirez  Guard Northern Colorado
7 206 Terry Battle  Running back Arizona State
7 232 Marcus Harris  Wide receiver Wyoming
7 239 Richard Jordan  Linebacker Missouri Southern
      Made roster    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career



1997 Detroit Lions staff
Front office

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

  • Offensive Coordinator – Sylvester Croom
  • Quarterbacks – Marc Trestman
  • Running Backs – Frank Falks
  • Wide Receivers – Jerry Sullivan
  • Tight Ends – Bob Palcic
  • Offensive Line – Jack Henry
  • Quality Control–Offense/Administrative Assistant – John Misciagna
Defensive coaches
  • Defensive Coordinator – Larry Peccatiello
  • Defensive Line – Brian Baker
  • Linebackers – Gary Moeller
  • Secondary – Richard Selcer
  • Defensive Assistant/Assistant Strength – Don Clemons
  • Quality Control–Defense – Dennis Murphy

Special teams coaches

  • Special Teams – Chuck Priefer
  • Offensive/Special Teams Assistant – Stan Kwan

Strength and conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning – Bert Hill


1997 Detroit Lions roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics
Active, Inactive, Practice squad

Regular seasonEdit

The final game of the regular season, on December 21, was marked by emotional highs and lows. Entering the game at 8–7 and needing a win to secure a playoff berth, the Lions played host to the 9–6 New York Jets, who like the Lions would be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss (although the Jets still had a chance to win the AFC East and get a home playoff game). In addition, Barry Sanders entered the game with a chance to potentially break the NFL’s single season rushing record— Sanders entered the game with 1,869 rushing yards, leaving him 131 from 2,000 and 237 away from what would have been a record setting 2,106 yards, topping Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 set in 1984. The Lions won the game 13–10, clinching the playoff spot and eliminating the Jets from the playoffs. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by Sanders proved decisive, and he finished with 184 yards to top out at 2,053 for the year – with Sanders rushing for an even 2,000 yards over the final 14 games. At the time, Sanders became only the third man to rush for 2,000 yards in a season behind O. J. Simpson and Dickerson and had rushed for the second most yards in a season (since Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis, Chris Johnson, and Adrian Peterson have accomplished the feat; Sanders’ total is now the fourth highest total behind Dickerson's 2,105, Peterson’s 2,096 in 2012, and Lewis’ 2,066 in 2003).

The mood, however, was somewhat tempered due to a career-ending injury suffered by Lions linebacker Reggie Brown. Brown was assisting on a tackle made on Jets running back Adrian Murrell when his head was struck by another player's leg. Brown suffered a spinal cord injury on the play and lost consciousness. At one point Brown actually stopped breathing and nearly died on the field, but was resuscitated. Brown did not move for seventeen minutes, and was eventually carried by ambulance out of the Silverdome. Brown was diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion and never played in the NFL again, although surgery did enable him to continue to be mobile. Brown's injury evoked memories of former Lion Mike Utley's paralyzing injury in 1991 and former Jet Dennis Byrd’s broken neck in 1992. Brown was also not the only Lion to suffer a career ending neck injury in 1997, as defensive back Harry Colon suffered damage to his neck during an earlier game against the New York Giants.[3]


Week Date Opponent Result TV Time(ET) TV Announcers Attendance
1 August 31, 1997 Atlanta Falcons W 28–17 FOX 1:00pm Sam Rosen & Ron Pitts
2 September 7, 1997 Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 24–17 FOX 1:00pm Eric Clemons & Trevor Matich
3 September 14, 1997 at Chicago Bears W 32–7 FOX 1:00pm Kevin Harlan & Jerry Glanville
4 September 21, 1997 at New Orleans Saints L 35–17 FOX 1:00pm Kenny Albert & Tim Green
5 September 28, 1997 Green Bay Packers W 26–15 FOX 1:00pm Dick Stockton & Matt Millen
6 October 5, 1997 at Buffalo Bills L 22–13 FOX 1:00pm Paul Kennedy & Jerry Glanville
7 October 12, 1997 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 27–9 FOX 1:00pm Dick Stockton & Matt Millen
8 October 19, 1997 New York Giants L 26–20 OT FOX 4:00pm Pat Summerall & John Madden
9 Bye
10 November 2, 1997 at Green Bay Packers L 20–10 ESPN 8:00pm Mike Patrick & Joe Theismann
11 November 9, 1997 at Washington Redskins L 30–7 FOX 1:00pm Thom Brennaman & Ron Pitts
12 November 16, 1997 Minnesota Vikings W 38–15 FOX 1:00pm Dick Stockton & Matt Millen
13 November 23, 1997 Indianapolis Colts W 32–10 NBC 1:00pm Dan Hicks & Jim Kelly
14 November 27, 1997 Chicago Bears W 55–20 FOX 12:30 pm Pat Summerall & John Madden
15 December 7, 1997 at Miami Dolphins L 33–30 ESPN 8:00pm Mike Patrick & Joe Theismann
16 December 14, 1997 at Minnesota Vikings W 14–13 FOX 1:00pm Kevin Harlan & Jerry Glanville
17 December 21, 1997 New York Jets W 13–10 NBC 4:00pm Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire & Phil Simms

Game summariesEdit

Week 17Edit

by Quarter1234 Total
Jets 10 0 0 0 10
Lions 0 3 3 7 13
  • Date: December 21
  • Location: Pontiac Silverdome • Detroit, Michigan
  • Game start: 4:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: indoors (dome)



Template:1997 NFC Central standings


NFC Wild Card Game: At Tampa Bay BuccaneersEdit

NFC Wild Card Game: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Lions 0 0 3 7


Buccaneers 3 10 7 0


at Houlihan's Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Tampa Bay won their first playoff game since 1979 with quarterback Trent Dilfer's 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Horace Copeland, running back Mike Alstott's 31-yard touchdown run, and two field goals. Their defense limited Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell to just 10 of 25 completions for 78 yards.

Awards and honorsEdit


External linksEdit

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1997 NFL DraftNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XXXII

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