The Lions’ fan base isn’t the most optimistic in the land. I include myself in that group, and trust me, I can understand the pessimism. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Lions will never get it right on countless occasions, but still find my way back every Sunday. I know a lot of other Lions fans have gone through the same patterns. It’s hard to buy into potential success after this team has sucked my soul out as many times as they have. I can’t say for sure how many tweets I read last week that displayed a legitimate fear of losing to the 0-8 Cleveland Browns. It wasn’t hard to imagine either. These were the Lions, after all.
The thing is the Lions didn’t lose this game. In fact, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t even close. I imagine some fans take exception to that claim. The game had ups and downs. There were some moments of doubt. The Lions were expected to come out and handle an inferior opponent at home. In all actuality, that’s exactly what they did. Wide receiver Golden Tate scored a touchdown to give the Lions a 14 point lead with 4:28 left in the game. This is what good teams do to bad teams. They step on the opponent’s throat and close the door. This idea that playing a bad team should result in a blowout win every time is unrealistic. Truth be told, the 14 point loss was a bigger margin of defeat than the 10 point average they had been losing by this season.
The Browns are a team of young athletic players who get paid millions of dollars to do their job. Sure, they’re 0-9. How does a team get to 0-9? They get there because they make mental mistakes or they don’t do the little things right. Maybe they don’t play well when the game is on the line. This doesn’t mean a winless team should never make a nice play or take a lead in a game. They’re professionals. The difference between the good teams and bad ones is so minor in the NFL. It’s a culmination of all the little errors that add up over the course of the game and a season. Eventually, the better team should take advantage of the small edges they’re gaining. This is exactly how the Lions won. The Browns played one of their best games of the season, but it wasn’t enough.
It’s possible that the Lions’ fan base is so neglected of a winner that the fandom is completely unsure of what a winner actually is. I have no doubt that fans in New England or Pittsburgh wouldn’t think twice about a 14 point win over the Browns. Even great teams play close games with the bad ones. Pittsburgh beat the Browns by only 3 points earlier this year. The Lions don’t have the history and prestige of the Steelers or the Pats. I get that. Moving forward with an upcoming team is going to involve becoming more used to winning and understanding that not every win will be pretty. The better team finding a way to get the win no matter how is what matters. Being great doesn’t have to mean looking like the ’72 Dolphins every week !
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford suffers from similar expectations. The Lions have an absolute stud at quarterback. It truly baffles me how many fans want to move on from Stafford, but I believe it’s the same problem stemming from neglect. The belief that being a great quarterback means never throwing an interception or missing an open target is a belief that will set anyone up for failure. Stafford’s interception against the Browns was ugly. It’s certainly one of the absolute worst plays I’ve ever seen from him. But, that happens sometimes. He bounced back and finished the game hot. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have thrown bad interceptions too. They make bad reads. Hell, I’ve seen them have bad games.
The ideal vision of what a truly great quarterback should look like needs to be adjusted. The Lions have one. What the Lions are getting out of Matthew Stafford is exactly what should be expected out of a franchise quarterback. He’s not perfect, but that’s the point. Nobody will be. The playoff wins will come, but in the meantime enjoy the privilege of watching one of the best in the game wearing Honolulu Blue. A talent like him doesn’t come around often.
This week the Lions will travel to Chicago. I’ve heard a lot of the same type of chatter as last week. Some fans believe this could be a typical SOL situation. Others are expecting a blowout to make a statement after the “disappointing” win against Cleveland. The Lions are a better football team than the Bears. It would be hard to argue otherwise. Unfortunately, being the better team doesn’t necessarily translate to a win every time. Divisional games are usually tough regardless of the match-up, and being on the road certainly doesn’t help. I don’t expect a blowout, but I don’t expect the Lions to blow the game either. I’ll be happy with a win of any kind. That’s how the good teams do it.