The Detroit Lions’ 16-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday had a film-like quality to it.
No, it wasn’t that of a thrilling epic, a beautiful drama or even a comedy. Instead, it felt more like a playful sports movie plenty of people may have enjoyed years ago.
In Rookie of the Year, little league pitcher Henry Rowengartner slips and breaks his arm, and due to the improper healing of the bones, it allows him to throw overpowering fastballs constantly. He does so and gets discovered, becoming a star for the Chicago Cubs.
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Except Rowengartner eventually slips and falls again late in the major league season, losing his superpowers. At that point, he’s forced to rely on unconventional tactics such as the hidden ball trick and underhanded tosses to get the biggest outs of the season. Despite being frustrated at first with the imperfection, his manager Sal Martinella cheers him from the dugout, assuring him anything goes, and encouraging him to do whatever he has to do to will the team to victory.
That was the Lions Sunday afternoon, and even most of 2014. At times, the games and team have both looked lost, even after big plays. Sometimes the offense doesn’t function completely. Defensively, the group can still allow just enough chunks of yardage to put things in consistent doubt. They go through stretches without any superpowers.
But when the dust settles, they make the few crafty plays they have to in order to get victories. A sneaky touchdown, a blocked field goal, a key field goal make and a powerful fourth down stop paved the way to a significant victory this week. That wasn’t unlike games against Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans in which similar plays helped pave the way for Detroit despite their superpowers seeming to temporarily leave them.
“The examples are all across the spectrum, whether it’s being down 21 in London to Atlanta, or trailing New Orleans, it’s been different ways,” Jim Caldwell said Monday about his team’s resolve. “Sometimes we need touchdowns, sometimes we need field goals.”
After the game Sunday, the coach stood in the locker room sounding very much like a cross between fictional Cubs manager Martinella and former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.
“That’s a good win, and they don’t have to be pretty,” Caldwell told the team afterward to plenty of cheers in the locker room. “They don’t have to be pretty all the time.”
The fact is, at times, victories such as Sunday’s haven’t been pretty for the Lions, but that doesn’t de-value them in the grand scheme of things. More often than not, Detroit’s able to get the job done, putting together a patchwork quilt of big plays down the stretch leading to wins. It beats the alternative outcome that fans have certainly gotten used to. As the old Raiders’ saying proclaims, “Just Win, Baby!”
More often than not, Detroit’s able to get the job done, putting together a patchwork quilt of big plays down the stretch leading to wins. It beats the alternative outcome that fans have certainly gotten used to.
“This group has grit,” Caldwell said when asked what he has learned about his squad this season. “They are very rarely deterred when adversity comes their way, and they play together, which is quite admirable.”
“You have to be pretty mentally tough to get that done, but it’s a week to week thing. Our challenge will be greater this week than it was last week.”
Regardless of that future challenge, Caldwell and the fans can have confidence that the Lions will manage to answer the bell, even if it doesn’t happen in flawless fashion. In the NFL, it doesn’t matter how teams win, so long as they’re able to get the job done against similarly elite opposition.
The message for the rest of the season? Like Rowengartner and his floater, just find any way to win, baby.