Monday, November 25, 2013

Eat My Words

I blew it.  The Lions lost to the Bucs 24-21 at Ford Field yesterday.  I thought they should've won the game by a couple of scores.  So did writers at the News and Free Press.

Instead, it became an unmitigated debacle, mainly in the second half.  Matthew Stafford threw for four interceptions, and he wasn't helped at all by Calvin Johnson and Kris Durham allowing the ball to pop out and find its way into the Bucs' hands (Durham's catch was a fumble, while Johnson's catch popped out and into a Bucs DB's hands).

Mistakes, aside, it seemed like Tampa Bay wanted to give this game to Detroit, and the Lions kept refusing it.  Twice, they stopped the Bucs in the fourth quarter and the kicker missed two FGs.  This game was theirs to lose, and they did just that.

I just wrote an article criticizing Same Ol' Lions Fans (SOLFs), and there I was, minutes after they lost their second straight, put in the proverbial submission hold by my brother-in-law demanding me to say it: Same Ol' Lions.  I kept enough composure not to say it.

Still, I hate being undermined and having to eat my own words.  What looked like an easy path to the NFC North title now looks more like a hard slog, but it's yet to be seen if this is another epic collapse.

The Lions are still on top of the division at 6-5.  The Bears have the same record, but the Lions have the tie-breaker by virtue of the season sweep.  The Packers tied the Vikings, keeping them a half-game back of the Lions at 5-5-1.

With five games left, the Lions can still do this.  Key word: "can."  It's not going to be as easy as I originally thought.  Tampa Bay decided to start their season nine weeks after everyone else did.  Mostly the same can be said for Pittsburgh.

Regardless, there's no excuses.  The Lions have to win on Thanksgiving.  Earlier when I talked about getting monkeys off their back, they need to beat Green Bay and win the Thanksgiving classic.  They haven't beaten the Packers in three years and haven't won on turkey day since 2003.

Aaron Rodgers isn't playing, and everyone remembers what Matt Flynn did to them two years ago at Lambeau.  Give them credit: they're still hungry.  But they can't afford anymore slip ups the rest of the way.  10-6 will win the division, but you won't win anything playing like this.

It's time for Detroit to cut the mental mistakes and get on with playing.  It ain't over til it's over.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Same Ol' Lions Fans

I know plenty of "fans" around here.  The kind of people that as soon as the Lions slip like they did last week against an improving (as of late) Pittsburgh Steelers, it's back to "Same Ol' Lions."  They're the Same Ol' Lions Fans.

I have friends, acquaintances, and co-workers like these.  They tell me at work, on facebook, or at the bar. Even on the radio, the callers call in. Just when you think they've turned the corner, they get smacked in the mouth and the SOLF cries out "SEE?!?! SEE?!?! I TOLD YOU! SAME OL' LIONS!!!"

Why?  They think it gives them credibility. SOLFs are like the people who don't follow politics and rely on fallback cliches like "All politicians are liars/crooks/bought and paid for," "The system is rigged," or "They're just in there to get re-elected."  It's these stupid cliches that do nothing but absolve people from having to think critically.  After all, it's so much easier to think that than to actually use your brain and understand the nuances of politics, or in this case, football.

It's much easier to say that a historically bad franchise hasn't made positive steps when you watch them blow a 27-point second quarter performance the week before against a team that's been underwhelming.  Yes, it sucks.  SOLFs are only doing it to insulate themselves from the torment they've endured the last half-century. They can't be blamed totally, but even they need to recognize that change is inevitable.

The Lions are 6-4.  They're not just in the thick of the playoff race, but have the best chance since 1995 to actually win the division, thereby host a playoff game.  Green Bay and Chicago's starting quarterbacks are injured and GB's Aaron Rodgers may not even be 100%, let alone ready for the Lions in four days at Ford Field.

The Lions still have to play Tampa Bay (home), Green Bay (home), Philadelphia (away), Baltimore (home-Monday Night), NY Giants (home), and Minnesota (away).  Tampa Bay and Minnesota have nothing to play for.  Baltimore is a shell of its Super Bowl winning team from a year ago.  Philadelphia and New York are in the worst division in football, and Green Bay's season may end up being a wash.  The scariest game for me is in Philadelphia, but even that game's winnable (assuming Nick Foles' play comes back down to Earth).

10-6 is likely, but 12-4 becomes a real possibility with each passing win.  12-4 could mean even a first round bye if New Orleans managed to slip up in the final six weeks.  This could be progress, but I would say "progress" is actually winning a playoff game.

SOLFs need to face reality: this team is better than what you've seen in the last 50+ years.  Yes, William Clay Ford is a terrible owner.  The worst, in fact.  But it's possible that just maybe, it's finally time for the Lions to make their run.