The last time the Detroit Lions were 10-6 gas was $1.16 a gallon. a movie ticket was $4.35 and Megan Fox was nine…ugh.
Finally, after a decade and a half the Lions have returned to the elusive double digit win club. Their reward? A date with the heavily favored, high-octane, media darling New Orleans Saints. While the Lions have made the officials’ (and nations’) most wanted list, the Saints golden boy QB (Drew Brees) has been breaking decades long passing records set by that guy from Ace Ventura. Breaking them with an ethically questionable 4th quarter, Monday Night Football passing frenzy, but breaking them nonetheless. Nearly everyone in the world is picking the Saints to win (except Mike Florio), Jim Harbaugh has already discounted the Lions as a threat to the Saints and Matt Stafford has received a figurative backhand by most of the media despite his arguably more impressive season, given the cricumstances, when compared to Brees’.
Despite a broken finger, a faltering defense, an invisible running game, a dubious injury history and an overall lack of NFL experience the Lions 23 year old signal caller squashed any doubts about his ability to win when it mattered. While the Lions were floundering at 7-5 after a Dec. 4th loss to the Saints, all Stafford did over the final four games was pass for 1511 yards and 15 TDs with just 2 INTs to carry the team on his back toward a playoff berth. I’m not going to do the research, but I’ll go on the record to say that was the greatest four game stretch of quarterback play in franchise history–at least that I’ve seen. It didn’t happen at the end of a 6-10 season. It happened at the end of a playoff season against a schedule that included a couple of teams that really needed to win.
Unlike the vaunted 1995 overconfident squad that the Motor City sent to Philadelphia for the route of all routes, this years squad is fresh off an embarassing defensive (although brilliant offense) effort against the Packers “B” team as we like to hear it called. While I was calling for the Saints last week, I didn’t envision it by means of a 480 yard, 6 TD game by the immortal Matt Flynn. What that game taught me is that while the Saints are an incredibly talented team, the Packers are a machine likely destined for another Lombardi Trophy. The Lions secondary (and defense) was bad, but has any team really ever been that bad? There’s something to the Packers and maybe we learned that Aaron Rodgers is really one part talent and one part system, and not all parts talent. I have little doubt the Packers will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
While the Packers defeat was demoralizing, it actually put the Lions in a better position long term–hear me out on this. If the Lions had gone into the Meadowlands and beat the Giants how much do they gain? A mild satisfaction that the winless playoff drought is ended and that the Jan. 5th, 1992 win against the Cowboys would have a bookend, but ultimately it’s a game that we’d hope the Lions would have win. If they would have lost that hypotetical game, it does more damage than a win does good. No doubt the Lions would head into an offseason where their ability to win in the playoffs is heavily questioned, especially against perceived lesser opponents.
What the Lions have now is a legitimate opportunity to squash the swirling questions from naysayers about their true talent level. Everybody expects them to put up as much of a fight as a kitten. So if they lose, so what? It’s what everyone thought.
If they win however, if they win…
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