Every week during the summer, positive or negative, we’re counting down the top 10 turning points from the season before.
Not everything that happened during the 2013 Detroit Lions’ season was negative. In fact, it can be argued that several events and moments were positive as it relates to the long run of the team.
Sweeping a significant rivalry series for the first time since 2007 certainly qualifies as such an accomplishment, especially when said sweep comes thanks to defense and at the expense of the Chicago Bears, one of the team’s longest-standing rivals.
Entering into a game in early November, though, that’s exactly what the Lions had a chance to do and ended up doing. With stingy defense throughout, Detroit throttled the Bears and held on despite a few possible designs of a late collapse.
Early on, there were signs this game would take a defensive feel. Outside of scoring on the first drive of the game, Chicago and Jay Cutler couldn’t do much against Detroit’s defensive line, who managed to get in the quarterback’s face early and often, even to his own personal harm. The Lions tied the game immediately after the Bears took the quick lead, but did little else as well leading to the tie score at halftime.
For Detroit, the defensive feel would continue. The Lions scored on their opening drive of the second half, and stifled the Bears on three out of their next four drives, only yielding a field goal. Into the fourth, Detroit held a slim lead, but the defense stiffened again, only allowing another field goal despite a Matthew Stafford interception netting Chicago a short field.
A beautiful touchdown by Calvin Johnson later, the Lions looked to be in good shape leading by eight. They’d need to lean on the defense again, though. With Cutler knocked out, Josh McCown led Chicago to an improbable nine play scoring drive with time running out. When they went for a two-point conversion the second time, however, Nick Fairley gobbled up Matt Forte before he could hit the goal line.
Despite everything, from a bad Stafford interception to untimely, unfortunate penalties, the Lions had won. Why? It was defense, plain and simple. From the get-go on this day, Detroit found an extra gear and took things up a notch, refusing to give in late when everyone expected them to buckle under pressure. Led by Fairley’s stop, the defense made the one big play they needed to late when so often they don’t.
Though the Lions would fall apart the rest of the way and have more meltdowns than excellent moments, that Sunday was a hopeful glimpse into what the Lions could—and should—become; a team that’s defense is capable of winning an NFC North street fight. In the first affair, the Lions won with offense, but in Chicago, they proved they could go toe to toe with one of the best defenses the NFC has had to offer for the last decade and come out on top.
Particularly, Fairley proved consistent, and made a game-changing play along the way. As far as effort and motivation go that the Lions should bottle up for 2014, this game overflowed with positives.