It was a year of ups-and-downs for the Detroit Lions in 2016. After hiring a new general manager and team president, and losing All-World wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the offseason, fans weren’t quite sure what to expect from the team this past season.
However, the Lions were able to make a playoff appearance, and provided spectators with a slew of exciting games, thanks to an unprecedented eight comeback wins in the fourth quarter.
With all of that being said it wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies for Detroit in 2016. Listed below are five takeaways we can draw from the season that was.
- The Lions overachieved: A record of nine wins and seven losses is not spectacular by any means, but it is a winning record and quite respectable in the NFL. It was certainly a better record than most analysts predicted (consensus seemed to be around the 7-9/8-8 mark). Personally, I thought the Lions would not win more than seven games this season. The Lions proved me wrong, much to my enjoyment.
- However, Detroit was not actually that good: Let’s face it, the squad backed into a playoff spot. With a chance to finally prove themselves against Aaron Rodgers and a red-hot Packers team in Week 17, the Lions folded up like a wet paper napkin and lost in front of a primetime audience. Let’s also remember the Lions dropped the final three regular season games, and then got embarrassed in Seattle in the Wild Card round.
- Matthew Stafford is elite: I was skeptical of him for years, but this year he proved to me he is the leader of this team and he is a top-tier NFL quarterback. He threw for 4,327 yards with 24 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Not crazy numbers, but efficient. He also spearheaded all of the team’s eight comeback wins. He is the leader of this team, and even when his play diminished after tearing ligaments in his finger on his throwing hand, he never let that be an excuse for his play. He did what leaders do, and took responsibility.
- The team will be hungry in 2017: The Lions embody everything the city of Detroit represents: hard work, grit and determination. Matthew Stafford is as tough as nails and the team plays with a constant chip on its shoulder. After four straight losses, there must be a bad taste in the players’ mouths. If you think they are not ready to build on their success this year, I think you would be mistaken.
- The running game is still the biggest concern on offense: After ranking dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2015, the Lions followed that performance up with a ranking of 30th in the league in 2016. It’s almost impressive how bad this team is at running the rock. Detroit averaged just 81.9 yards per contest, ahead of only the Minnesota Vikings and L.A. Rams. Losing Ameer Abdullah for nearly the entire season certainly didn’t help matters. Whether it’s the offensive line, running backs or play calls, this issue needs to be addressed in the offseason.
There are many other conclusions we can draw from Detroit’s season, but these are the areas that stand out. As usual, the Lions will watch the remainder of the playoffs from home. Maybe, just maybe, one day we will see Detroit in a Super Bowl during our lifetimes.