The Lions’ quest for respectability starts with their own fans. They had a chance to distance themselves from the ghosts of the past and quiet the naysayers but blew it in the matter of about four minutes of game play. And so, Lions fans remains split into two groups: those that say the Lions are a vastly improved team and those that look at the results and say they are no different.
Closing out a victory over the Jets would be the Lions’ most significant victory since 2007. The few wins that have come since then are a mixed bag of one-off performances against other relatively lousy teams. It is said that even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut. A victory over the Jets would have proven that this squirrel has acquired the taste for meat and hunted down its prey. The Lions outplayed the Jets for 56 minutes and put themselves in position to gain widespread support throughout the fan-base but instead gave us yet another reminder than an NFL game is 60 minutes long.
Zooming out a bit, this game was a big opportunity to continue the momentum the Lions had been gaining with the national media. Stories are always magnified when a New York team is involved. A Jets loss would have put a big magnifying glass on Rex Ryan’s crew with the Lions on the positive end of the story. We were four minutes away from Matthew Stafford gaining a leg up on Mark Sanchez head-to-head and a storyline about the Lions defense outplaying the much-hyped Jets defense. Instead, the superlatives are flowing towards the Jets while the Lions are, well, the Lions.
If you’re like me, this loss hurts worse and worse the more you think about it. Adding an “L” to the record in collapsing fashion hurts enough but now the entire outlook of the remaining schedule changes with the health of Matthew Stafford up in the air. Can we reasonably expect the Lions to be favored in a road game if Drew Stanton has to start, even if it is against a winless Buffalo Bills team? What happens if the Bills beat the Lions and go on to finish 1-15? That would make two consecutive years that a one-win team found its only victory against the Detroit Lions, not a confidence inspiring feat.
What looked like simply an unraveling of a game is starting to feel like the unraveling of a season. Let’s just hope the unraveling stops there.