PONTIAC, Mich. -- First, there was the 18-minute gap in the Richard Nixon tapes.
Now, there's a 60-minute gap -- a full game -- in the Detroit Lions' videotapes.
As far as coach Wayne Fontes is concerned, the game -- Sept. 1 in Washington -- didn't occur, and he would just as soon nobody produced any incriminating evidence to the contrary.
"That game is in the archives," Fontes said, laughing. "It's burned and destroyed. We will not look at that film again."
Not even to study formations or tendencies or techniques?
Fontes eyed his interrogator: "Are you crrraaaazy?"
The videotape -- if it were to be recovered -- would show the Lions being shellacked, 45-0, by the Washington Redskins in the season opener.
The images remain with the Lions players, haunting them even now.
Linebacker Chris Spielman recalled the Redskins' downing the ball inside the Detroit 10 with two minutes left in the game, rather than heaping more shame on the Lions.
"Total humiliation, probably one of the lowest points of my career," Spielman recalled yesterday.
Quarterback Erik Kramer recalls his feelings when he was sent in for the final 67 seconds as the replacement for starter Rodney Peete.
"I remember getting humiliated and thinking, 'Oh, gosh, don't put me out there,' " Kramer said.
Fontes has no desire to relive the horror of that Sunday night game at RFK Stadium, even as part of the Lions' preparation for their rematch with the Redskins on Sunday in the NFC championship game.
"Somebody asked me do I remember anything about that first game?" Fontes said. "I really don't remember a thing about that game. After that game I forgot it the moment I left the locker room.
"We won't even look at it because we won't play the same-type defense and our offense has changed.
"I don't think Washington will look at the tape, either. They know we don't play that way now. They know we're not going to play that style of defense. Our offense will be a little different.
"We do have Barry [Sanders] in there, and I think Coach [Joe] Gibbs is going to look at it and say the last three or four games, the Lions are taking what people give them."
Virtually nothing about the Lions is the same since their first game.
First and foremost, Sanders is in the lineup, and opposing defenses find it necessary to account for him with at least a half-dozen players on every offensive play.
With Peete out for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, Kramer is the Lions' full-time quarterback and he's coming off a 29-for-38, three-touchdown performance against Dallas.
Instead of playing a 4-3 defense, the Lions are playing the 3-4 style for which they are more suited, although defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer must juggle alignments and formations to make up for injured players.
No one has yet suggested those changes will be enough to reverse the outcome of the first game.
Moments after the Lions dumped Dallas out of the playoffs with Sunday's 38-6 victory, they were made 12-point underdogs to Washington (12 1/2 by yesterday). And the players know they have their hands full.
"There were a lot of extenuating circumstances," Spielman said, referring to the 45-point loss. "I'm not making excuses; we got physically beat, beat up bad.
"They attacked us in a way we couldn't handle. The players couldn't make the adjustments on the field and they physically manhandled us. That happens. I think we learned a valuable lesson and turned things around.
"To be successful I guess you have to put devastating losses and great wins behind you, no matter which one it is. We seem to be able to do that as a team this year, which is a sign of maturity."
The Lions have never won a game in Washington. They are 0-15 in games there since the teams first met in 1938.
But it took a furious Washington comeback to beat the Lions, 41-38, in overtime during the 1990 season.
The Lions might be drawing confidence from that game, but they're not talking trash about the team with the best record in the NFL -- 15-2.
"This club has never tried to win a game talking in the papers," Kramer said. "We know we have to show up and play the game."
He says he won't dread playing Sunday, though.
"There's no place to hide now," Kramer said. "I'd like to be out there with the opportunity we've got."