Monday, December 10, 2007

In typical Lions fashion


After I stayed out very late Saturday night, I slept in until 2:48 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Before cursing myself for wasting half the day or trudging to the bathroom to wash my face, I grabbed the bedside remote to check on the Week 14 NFL scores.

The first score I noticed? Detroit 20, Dallas 14 — in the third quarter.

Since I made the Michigan-to-North Carolina jump the first week of October, I hadn't seen one Lions game. Of course, usually that's a good thing, but not when the alternative is watching the dull Panthers. And something told me, after my long hibernation, that this was one Lions game I didn't want to miss.

So instead of reading the Sunday paper or cooking myself some eggs, I bolted out the door and drove the 8.3 miles to Buffalo Wild Wings — the dream spot for NFL fans. When I entered, every early game had its own TV. The Cowboys-Lions battle had gained access to one of the big screens (mostly because of the number of 'Boys fans in attendance).

There was one other Lions fan in the joint, and as I took the only available seat and introduced myself to a grizzly, likes-to-swear Giants fan, the other Lions rooter pounded fists with me. Could the 6-6 Lions knock off the NFC's elite, the 11-1 Cowboys? Could thy get that win that might just sneak them in the playoffs?

We wanted to be witnesses. It's not every year a Lions game during the Holiday Season actually matters. Usually by the time my family mounts the tree, the Lions have 11 losses in their back pocket.

So this Sunday was special. Until, that is, the game ended.

In typical Lions fashion.

First there was the missed field goal. Jason "Automatic" Hanson — the MVP of the team for the past 10-plus years — pushed a gimme 35-yard attempt to the right that would have given Detroit a two-possession lead, 30-21.

Then there was the booted fumble. On Dallas' game-winning drive in the waning moments, quarterback Tony Romo was stripped of the ball, which bounced directly toward Lion Paris Lenon. All he had to do was fall on the ball, and the timeout-less 'Boys would be done, sauteed, boiled. But, instead, Lenon tried to scoop up the pigskin and kicked it directly to a Dallas lineman. Who knew what to do.

From there, the rest of the Lions' demise was all too predictable. As I sat watching, there was no rally cap, no superstitious move I could make to change the ending. Dallas converted a fourth down. Romo guided them down to the Detroit 16-yard line.

And, finally, he completed the inevitable with a touchdown pass down the middle to super tight end Jason Witten, who caught a team-record 15 balls on the day but somehow raced untouched to pay dirt on the game's most important play.

A terrible kickoff return, two incompletions and a sack later, the comeback was complete. Dallas had outscored Detroit 14-0 in the fourth quarter — in Detroit — to win 28-27. This one had to hurt the most of the hundreds of losses the Lions have sustained in recent memory.

In my 2007 NFL Preview, I predicted six wins for the Lions. I didn't, however, expect them to arrive at that number in this fashion. Five weeks ago, after Detroit drilled Denver 44-7, my friend texted me, saying the Lions would make the playoffs. I wanted to agree with him, really did, but I knew this franchise too well.

Now, the Lions are toast. With games at San Diego next week and at Green Bay the season's final week — sandwiched around a home game against the awful Chiefs — there's no way Detroit wins its remaining three games, which is almost certainly what it needs to do to play into January.

It still might surpass my expectation of six wins. And, I must admit, this team has been better on several levels than I expected. Except for a few duds, the offense has been as explosive as advertised. The defense has shown up on occasion. And no "Fire Millen" marches have occurred outside Ford Field.

But there are no moral victories in the NFL. The bottom line is how many games you win. And for the eighth consecutive season, it appears the Lions are headed for familiar territory — a seat in front of the TV during the playoffs.

As I left "B-dubs" late Sunday afternoon, with the North Carolina sun beginning to set, I could only shake my head and smile. Why, I wondered, did I squander the first two hours of my day to watch the same old story?

Not to mention have to listen to the cigarette-wielding, voluble Giants fan spout off about Plaxico Burress until I had to turn my chair.


Sportsattitude said...

Because of the fact I witnessed every second of the Eagles total demolition of the Lions early in the season, and knowing what a fraud the Eagles were going into this season (I had 'em 8-8 and they won't even get to that mark), I had no expectations the Lions would achieve Jon Kitna's prediction for ten wins. However, I was surprised they started to right the ship a bit before they crashed and burned once more...I don't know what to think about Millen & Company at this point and I suspect all of Detroit is equally puzzled. Strange season even with the end result being much the same.

Tyler Hampton said...

I am not a Lions fan and I don't follow the Lions, but I do know that they tend to fall apart late in the season. I think that what they need is a quarterback that can step up and take a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Look at the Buccaneers. Last year they were a horrible 4-12. This year they pick up Jeff Garcia who picks up the team and carries them to the top of the NFC South this year. The rest of the team is not substantially better, but they picked up that go to guy at the quarterback position who will step up and be their key player. The Lions really need a go to guy at the quarterback position.