Here’s what we all knew prior to Sunday’s game against San Francisco:
-The Lions have not really been tested at home this year.
-Matthew Stafford and the offense pick their games up in the second half, and have learned to win late on the fly.
-Detroit players know how to rally around their leaders, role players and fans to make things happen.
-There would be an element of unfamiliarity in week six, coming off a short week of practice following Monday Night Football, against a fired-up early playoff contender.
We also knew that the Lions have yet to play that complete game, where most or every element of a football squad seems in-tune. We know they have obvious weak spots that haven’t been totally exploited by their first five opponents. It’s the things that we comment on after each game: the D-line wasn’t a presence, sloppy run-blocking, awful punt coverage. These are the things, though very fixable, that better opponents can cash in on. Unfortunately, Calvin Johnson couldn’t bail them out this week.
This was a necessary loss for the Lions. 16-0 was a pipe dream and though keeping the faith for that perfect season is great for morale, Jim Harbaugh and the Niners made sure that Motown returned to thinking realistically.
The Lions have spoiled us for the past nine regular season games- 13 including preseason- and we’ve forgotten that old familiar feeling of what it’s like to lose. San Francisco gave Detroit many opportunities to win this game, but Detroit seemed to cede even more. Don’t worry, this isn’t the end of a great season. Instead, we should look at some of the positives, knowing that guys like Kyle Vanden Bosch won’t accept the performance of the defense for another game, and Jim Schwartz can’t go two weeks in a row without fist-pumping.
More encouraging than the fact that the Lions have five wins through week six is that the majority of those came on the road. That’s really something to think about from this week forward: winning on the road is essential to a good playoff run, and they already have three wins (TB, MIN, DAL). The Lions will get their home wins; don’t be fooled by what you’ve thought of the Niners in the Alex Smith era. They’re looking very solid thus far.
Next week’s game against Atlanta will tell a lot about the mental fortitude of this team. This would be a huge win for Detroit moving towards the bye week. A very winnable game the following week at Mile High in Denver could potentially put the Lions at 7-1 for their break. Stafford and the boys should not be discouraged after this loss, only hungrier to make it happen these next two weeks.