Click, Click, Click…Well, that ride that was the Detroit Lions 2011 season has come to a stop. It was a great ride. It started off fast: the 5-0 start was like whooshing down a roller coaster at 100 mph. So exhilarating! It flattened out in the middle, but righted itself with a late 3 game win streak that saw us reach the playoffs. After that, the last 2 games made us feel sick to our stomachs, and we threw up all over ourselves while coming to a stop. The Lions 2011 season left no doubt that the team is leaving the “Kiddie Land” section of the amusement park and next year will be riding with the Big Boys.
For the first half of the game, the Lions stood toe to toe with the New Orleans Saints and were winning the battle Rockem-Sockem Robot style. You could probably hear a pin drop in the French Quarter at halftime. Then, the second half started. The Saints proceeded to set the record of most yards gained in the history of the NFL Playoffs. They ended up with 626 yards, but it seemed like 6,026 yards. They never punted.
I talked to my cousin, a Browns fan who couldn’t care less about the Lions, after the game and he remarked on how the Lions got screwed by the officials. It caught me by surprise because I’m so used to it that it’s become part of the Detroit Lion experience. Yes, they got screwed again, but the Saints were clearly the better team and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
The best thing about losing those last two games is that they were against the exact teams we are trying to be like. After giving up almost a thousand passing yards in the last 2 weeks, 928 to be precise, The Leos know what they need to catch those two teams. A boatload of defensive backs, a linebacker who can tackle and blitz, an end to replace Kyle Vanden Bosch and some young offensive lineman. I have total confidence that Martin Mayhew will get those pieces.
I don’t feel like this is the end of something, rather the beginning of something very special. This reminds me of the 1988 Pistons, or if you are ancient like me, the 1967 Tigers. You can see it coming like the end of the tunnel and the closer you get to your goal the brighter it gets.
I’m not that worried about the tons of yardage that the Lions were giving up. I read this morning that only 3 teams allowed more 300 yard passing games this season and made the playoffs than the five the Lions surrendered. Those teams are the Packers, Saints and the Patriots; the very teams the Lions are chasing. Well, they have the giving up yards part down all they have to do is learn how to win. That tells me that the NFL is changing and that mantra of “defense wins championships” died a long time ago.
With Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, who could very well end up as the top quarterback-reciever combo in NFL history, leading the way the Detroit Lions EXPECT to be the new Kings of the Jungle very soon.