Monday Night Was Rough, But Don’t Give Up Hope!
I can say this past Monday night won’t go down as one of the better Monday nights I’ve had. Thankfully, the football that I chucked in my house after the Dallas Cowboys scored their last touchdown hit only the metal door, just as expected, mind you. Although the Dallas Cowboys are obviously a great team, the game was made more painful than it really should’ve been for Lions fans.
At halftime, with the score 21-21, I think any Detroit Lions fan felt pretty good with how things were going. Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last long. First the wheels fell off, then the axle, and then everything that was left just caught fire suddenly and viciously exploded. For simplicity sake, I’m not taking into account that the Lions can back into the playoffs at 9-7 depending on how the game Sunday between the Giants and the Redskins shakes out. The Detroit Lions now have a date with destiny. A Sunday Night Football matchup against perhaps the hottest team in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers.
On Thanksgiving, it felt like the Lions won the division, until we kept hearing Aaron Rodgers cute little sound bit about running the table. Over, and over, and over again. Now with what is without a doubt the biggest game in Ford Field history on the horizon, and the reality that Aaron and “The Pack” (read that quote while rolling your eyes because that nickname sucks) really being able to run the table. It seems only natural to freak out if you are a fan of the Detroit Lions. Really though, it had to come down to this didn’t it? I know it’s scary, but metaphorically speaking, there could be no better feeling than finally punching the bully who has tormented you the most right in his teeth in order to take back your girl, and take her to the dance. Ever since Rodgers opened his mouth about running the table, we all knew deep down inside on Jan 1, the Lions would have to knock his damn teeth down his throat to win this division.
We’ve all been here before, and we’ve all felt this before. Some such as myself, only at the age of 30, not nearly as much as those who have cheered and hoped for victory long before we were here. We all know what’s going to happen on New Year’s Day. The Lions complete an epic collapse and lose out, allowing Green Bay and all of their (stupid/fair weather) fans to throw their cheese hats in the air and celebrate at our table, after they just beat the Lions and ran the table.
While knowing that this will happen, and accepting the inevitable is only natural, I’m here to tell you, don’t freak out. At midnight on Jan 1 the ball will drop, and the tune of Auld Lang Syne will ring in the New Year. On New Year’s night, the funeral bells will ring, and the graveyard symphony will play as one NFC North team lies down and relaxes in its coffin as it is taken to its resting place. The end of their NFL season. That coffin will be beautiful, as it will be decorated in bright yellow and green. Because on New Year’s Day in Detroit Michigan the 2016 Green Bay Packers will be put to rest. Here are five reasons why we as Lions fans, shouldn’t currently freak out.
I know that Jimmy is not the most popular person in Detroit right now, and perhaps I’m not a fan right now. I have zero understanding why Matthew Stafford was out on the field in Dallas on Monday, down 21 points with little over a minute to play. With that being said, the coach’s approach to this game will help the team recover from the knockdown they just suffered in “Jerry World” (also said while rolling your eyes). Jim Caldwell with his even keeled demeanor and motivational ability are just what these Lions need to channel the Rocky movies. Caldwell will serve as the de facto Mick, and lure these Lions off of the Canvas.
The Team’s Love For Jim Caldwell
No Detroit Lions coach has left the city of Detroit and found the bright lights of the NFL to have fallen in their favor, allowing them to coach another NFL team. As frustrating as Caldwell can be at times, I think that anyone who is a true fan of this team, and not just someone who occasionally purchases a ticket that might just cost about $97.01, doesn’t want to see Caldwell go. The calls for this mans head over the last two years have become incredulous. After seeing how the 2015 Detroit Lions played for a coach who got them off to a 1-7 start last season, anyone watching would be a fool to think that these 2016 Detroit Lions are ready to do nothing short of playing outside of their heads, and playing their asses off for this much maligned coach.
The Elephant In The Room, Matt Prater
I’ve been feeling it for weeks. After the praise and the clutch consistency that Matt Prater has earned and exuded, I could feel a miss on a field goal coming. I just didn’t want to talk about it. I did not want to be that jinx. Thankfully, now we’ve got that out of the bag and out into the open. On Monday against Dallas, the snap was good and the hold was good, but the kick? Not so much. No good. No points given to the Lions, and may God have mercy on their souls. Guess what? It won’t happen again. Not with the stone cold kicker that the Lions possess. Matt Prater has lived the life, and thrived in a results orientated business perhaps more than anyone else on the Detroit Lions. In the NFL a QB can throw three to four interceptions in a game and easily have a job the next week. As far as kickers go, missed field goals, sometimes even one, earn you nothing but walking papers. Monday’s miss will serve as nothing but a wakeup call to Matt Prater. Who for as long as this Lions season goes, hopefully into February, will not miss again.
Travis Swanson and Darius Slay
This in my opinion, will be the biggest key to winning the NFC North title game that looms. I hate to trash Lions players but Laken Tomlinson is a joke. This man is big for no reason, specifically because he couldn’t block me, and I have never played a game of football in my life. The only reason that this “talent” (term used loosely) is playing in NFL games for the Detroit Lions is because of the loss of Travis Swanson, who is being replaced at C by Graham Glasgow. I initially had no concerns about Glasgow at center replacing Swanson. However, in the last two weeks Glasgow has been beaten handily on at least a few occasions, proving to be harmful for his team and his QB Matthew Stafford. If the young man from Michigan, Glasgow can get back to his NFL position of LG, and Swanson moves back to C, the Lions will be ok. Make no mistake about it, this will mostly because Laken Tomlinson will be put back into the position of being on the bench, which is exactly where he needs to be.
Darius Slay is as vital to the Lions success as Laken Tomlinson is, although in very different ways. Slay does not need to ride the bench, or be anywhere near the bench. Especially against Jordy Nelson and the Packers. To be fair, against the Cowboys, a few of the scoring plays still had great coverage by the defense of the Lions on Monday that still resulted in touchdowns. That doesn’t matter. As a whole, on Monday, the Lions corners were awful. I dare say that the game could’ve been very different if “Big Play Slay” was able to attempt a big play to sadden the Cowboys day. If you’re pulling for a Lions win, pull for Slay to be active on New Years Day.
Home Field Advantage
Those who have frequented Ford Field for Detroit Lions games this year are not used to defeat. After all, the Lions have only lost once at home this season. And on New Year’s Day? I dare say that the Ford Field faithful, who are in my opinion the greatest 12-man in all of football, will not accept defeat, although many who stand outside of those walls expect it. Who could blame them? Many have seen and lived this story before.
Sadly, the history of the Lions is easily summed up. It is one made simply of heartbreak and confusion that this city, team, and fans know all too well. It is easy to give up at this point, and see that Aaron Rodgers precious little table will have been run, with the final run being completed at Ford Field. Yet for all the naysayers, and all of the doubters, as justified as they may be, the faithful (and probably crazy) remain standing tall.
Jim Caldwell has repeatedly this year, praised the fans at Ford Field. Anyone who is fortunate enough to enter Ford Field this Sunday, for Sunday Night Football, with the NFC North divisional title on the line should not scoff at his praise. The fans at Ford Field can provide an incredible advantage if they just believe. They can slow down the heavy breathing and the increased heart rate of the Detroit Lions defense, and raise their energy level substantially. The home field advantage can fuel the Detroit Lions defense, and hell, even the whole team. If they just believe.
The true fans know that this Lions regular season can end differently than almost all of the others. Heartbreak and heartache for most of Lions recorded history be damned. Let me put my Aaron Rodgers pants on and go ahead and spell that last point out. B-E-L-I-E-V-E. This Lions team has defied the odds more so than any in NFL history, although the last 2 weeks can make that fact easily forgettable. But I do not think that Detroit will take the easy way out. I don’t think that Detroit will forget what this Lions team has done this year, especially at home.
Like Dan Miller said a few seasons ago in an epic radio call, when it comes to this weekend please Detroit, do your best Miller impersonation and “Stand up Ford Field, Stand up.” If you do, like you always do, it may very well help to power the Lions straight to their first ever NFC North Championship.
So don’t freak out, Lions fans. It may be a long shot, but it’s the only shot that you have. There is still hope. History isn’t on our side, but history seems to have lost the contact information of these 2016 Detroit Lions.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow Daniel Lewis on Twitter @DetDanLewis and leave him your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.