I’ll admit to becoming frustrated at various points during the NFL lockout but for some reason I’m feeling it now more than ever, even as there is plenty of reason to believe the end is just around the corner. Maybe it is just the real world reality of coming down from a great holiday weekend combined with the lingering lockout, maybe it is just the fact that the labor situation remains precarious despite an air of optimism. Mostly, I think I’m just getting tired of writing and hearing about the potential for a great NFL season in Detroit. I’m ready to see it play out with my own eyes.
I’m old enough to remember the Barry Sanders days when a wild card berth and the occasional division title was a realistic possibility but I’m young enough to have not fully appreciated those days and I often find myself straining to remember what it is like to have a good football team in Detroit. Sure, we always hope the Lions will win but I have a hard time remembering what it was like expecting the Lions to win. I remember some of those great years but in a way shielded by my naïveté at the time. That’s why I particularly enjoyed Josh Hill’s look back at the 1991 Lions (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). I got an even better reminder of what it was like in the days of the “good” Lions earlier this week.
It was 1993 and the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers had already secured playoff berths ahead of their game to conclude the regular season. The winner would earn the NFC Central crown and host the loser in a playoff game the following week. The Lions intercepted Brett Favre four times as a raucous Silverdome crowd saw the Lions emerge victorious.
The playoff game that followed was one for the ages, although Lions fans that remember it would like to forget about it. Barry Sanders had missed the final five games of the regular season but returned for the playoffs and exploded for 169 yards on 27 carries. It may have been a performance that lived on in Lions lore had it not been for a wide open Sterling Sharpe scoring a game winning touchdown that gave the Packers their first playoff win since the 1982 season. The game may have ended poorly but the footage, particularly early, captures an attitude that has been missing from the team and its fan for over a decade. It has been so long it is almost surreal to look back at a Lions team hosting a playoff game.
The 1993 wild card game against the Packers was featured in an episode of ESPN’s NFL’s Greatest Games which a youtube user has conveniently uploaded: