Ultra-reliable Jason Hanson was a ball of mixed emotions watching the Lions finish the season on a four-game winning streak.
He was thrilled the team he has been a part of for 19 years was finally starting to make good on the turnaround he forecast during a 2-10 start, frustrated that injuries made him a bystander to all the good happening on the field, and even a bit insecure about what it meant for his own future as Dave Rayner drilled big kick after big kick down the stretch.
"It was bittersweet," said Hanson, who missed the final eight games with a knee injury. "I kind of was like, I've been sitting around waiting to do that for a long time and then it gets him a couple weeks in a row. But he did it, and he made some big kicks. Made a 55-yarder. He did a great job and that's not easy to do coming in mid-season."
Rayner, an Oxford native and Michigan State product who signed with the Lions in November after four journeyman seasons in the NFL, kicked well enough in half a year of work that Hanson admits "he earned a job here or somewhere" for 2011.
In his eight-game cameo, Rayner made 13 of 16 field goals, including seven straight to end the season.
He drilled a 55-yarder to jump-start a shorthanded offense in the season finale against Minnesota, made a game-tying 47-yarder in difficult conditions at Miami a day after Christmas, and hit tying and winning kicks at the end of regulation and in overtime to help the Lions snap a 26-game road losing streak at Tampa Bay.
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Detroit Free Press | Feb 16