To most of the Detroit Lions players, this Sunday’s match-up with the Atlanta Falcons is likely just another home game against a possible NFL playoff contender. Win, and the Lions get another early victory under their belt and improve their playoff resume with an NFC win. It’s a chance to prove that, yes, the Lions can beat a good team. Well, that they can beat an OK team, if it makes you happier to put it that way.
However, this game actually has a little more meaning. While the Lions are favored heading into this game, they were actually favored the last time these two franchises played. These teams met in Atlanta to start the dreaded 2008 season. We all know what happened that season, but heading into the game, the Lions were thought the be the team that was closer to competing. The then rookie Matt Ryan led Falcons were a team that maybe with a few bad bounces could go 0-16. Wow, was everyone wrong. On the first pass of Matt Ryan’s career he shredded the Lions wafer-thin defense for a 62 yard touchdown pass. At that moment there was a collective “Uh-Oh” groaned out through Metro Detroit. We all realized, this is gonna be ugly. It didn’t get much better the rest of the game or season as coaches and players squabbled, fans boo’d and punchlines ensued. Yes, that single play is what jump started the most infamous season in NFL history. The fans certainly don’t forget it, and I’m guessing the guys that were there (Calvin Johnson, Cliff Avril, Jason Hanson, Jeff Backus, Dom Raiola, etc.) haven’t forgotten it either.
Fans were duped into believing that with Rod Marinelli’s “tough nosed” defense, that the 2008 team could compete. Any optimism was surely crushed by halftime and we were left to hope and pray that the ultimate, hopeless quest for a single victory wouldn’t end fruitless. We were left starving and embarrassed. The Falcons went on to win 32 games over the last three season, the Lions won 8. The Falcons clinched playoff berths in 2008 and 2010, the Lions clinched top 2 draft picks in 2008 and 2009.
Now here we are 3 years later and maybe, just maybe, the roles are reversed. Maybe the Falcons are a little overrated and they’ll take a shot in the mouth from a young, hungry Detroit Lions team eager to prove that last weeks loss was an aberration. While it certainly won’t be on the coaches minds, nor most of the players, we fans should not doubt take a little extra satisfaction in a Sunday victory since this Atlanta team is the team that made us realize 0-16 was inevitable.