With around 2:47 left in the 4th quarter of the Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals game last Sunday, a familiar scene reared its’ ugly head.
On 3rd & 5, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford dropped and delivered a pass to J.D. McKissic that would have essentially sealed a season-opening victory. McKissic was well past the first down marker and then gameplay stopped. Unbeknownst to the players on the field, Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell signaled for a timeout before the snap, wiping away the first down. On the ensuing re-play, the Lions failed to convert on 3rd down, giving the Cardinals a shot to tie the game.
This rings a bell, doesn’t it?
“Same Ole’ Lions’ (SOL) is what this scene has been dubbed in Detroit sports history. While SOL carries another connotation socially, in Michigan, it refers to the many failures and follies of the Lions. From the Calvin Johnson catch rule to the uncalled flag vs. the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs (2015), the Lions have showcased an unprecedented ability to lose games in a multitude of ways. And staying true to its fashion, the Lions showcased another way they could blow a game. However this time, they didn’t lose. After giving up an 18-point lead heading into the 4th, the game went to overtime, resulting in a 27-27 tie. The last time the Lions were a part of a tie game, it was in 1984 when they tied the Philadelphia Eagles 23-23. During that season, the Lions finished with a 4-11-1 record.
Brace yourselves, everyone. History may repeat itself.
The Next Several Games
The team has now found themselves in a “must-win” situation in their home-opener vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. Fortunately for the Lions, the Chargers will be without Melvin Gordon. Gordon is currently in a contractual holdout with his ball club. Add onto the fact that the Chargers have faced a bevy of injuries such as tight end Hunter Henry’s knee injury in Week 1. These signs would suggest a Lions victory is inevitable.
However, these are the Lions. And they ALWAYS make it interesting one way or another.
A Lions victory improves their record at 1-0-1 on the season. However, a loss drops them at 0-1-1. Neither scenarios are pretty, but factoring in their next two opponents are the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, fans could see the Lions season end (presumably) before October. Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes, quarterbacks for the Eagles and Chiefs respectively, are regarded amongst the elite at their position. Mahomes, who’s the reigning NFL MVP, will be looking to showcase his impressive play that has carried into this season when the Chiefs visit Ford Field. After that, the Lions will have a bye week, then resume play against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. And Lions fans know all too well of the history at Lambeau. The great thing is, recent history gives the fans some hope.
In 2015, they won their first game there since 1991 in an 18-16 victory. Since then, they have won the last 4 of 6 games against the Packers. Two of those victories were convincing wins at Lambeau (35-17 in 2017 and 31-0 in 2018 respectively). That was the first time they’ve beaten the Packers in four consecutive games since 1983.
Division Title Dreams
Should the Lions lose any game over the next several weeks, a playoff berth this season seems rather unlikely. The NFC North is regarded as one of the tougher divisions in the league this season. The Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Green Bay Packers have each won the division title in the past three seasons. The Lions have never won the NFC North crown. Last time the Lions won a division title, the NFC North was recognized as the NFC Central. And even then, that was in 1991.
That is 28 years without a division title.
While former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell guided the team to two playoff berths in his stint, the team has seemingly regressed under second-year head coach Matt Patricia’s leadership. In Caldwell’s last season with the team (2017-2018 season), they finished 9-7, just missing the playoffs. The 2 out of 3 seasons prior, they were a team who suffered heartbreaking playoff losses to the Dallas Cowboys (2015) and Seattle Seahawks (2017). In Matt Patricia’s first season, the team went backward, posting a 6-10 record, finishing last in the division. Patricia is now facing a situation where he must guide the Lions to their first win this Sunday. Otherwise, he could be facing the “hot seat”.
The Lions and Chargers will kick off Sunday at 1 p.m. at Ford Field.