Last night, I mourned the loss of the 2010 season. I buried my dreams of a surprise playoff run, set the marble marker atop the grave, and shed a single tear for what might have been.
O for the Lions of twenty ten, fantastic team too early made rest
here Stafford, Pro Bowler, sleeps with top rooks named Suh and Best
They battled foes sixteen strong, besting nine to be wild card
these Lions made their fans proud, this little blue fire bright roar’d
Yet alas, this season met early doom, so fans again must don
their parkas, tend little flame, as winter's wind bloweth on
Yesterday, the Bears and Packers both lost—and the Lions lost their last opportunity to claw back into the division race. If they’d been able to come away from Your Company Name Here Stadium with a win, they’d be tied with the Vikings at 2-3, one game behind the 3-3 Packers, and two games behind the 4-2 Bears—with nine left to play. For the sake of our collective sanity, I’ll refrain from mentioning that the NFL stole a win from the Lions and gave it to the Bears, and the Lions would actually be one game behind both the Bears and Packers if they’d completed yesterday’s comeback . . .
. . . but, they didn’t. They didn’t, and a happy truth we’d been glumly unaware of—that the Lions weren’t really out of it, even at 1-4—has been erased, before we could even enjoy it. I’m not going to blame Drew Stanton, because he played better could be expected of a third-string quarterback. I’m not going to blame Brandon Pettigrew, even as the old saw “in the NFL, anything that hits your hands you have to catch” indicts his hands, again. I’m not going to blame the defense—for though they were gashed by the run in the second half, they kept getting off the field on third down. I’m not going to blame the refs, either, though the hankies certainly fell like snow from the New Jersey sky.
This team is simply not good enough to beat the Giants, on the road, with an already-iffy LB corps completely depleted. They’re not good enough to overcome the mistakes, and—before you flip out about the penalties—they’re not good enough to simply not make the mistakes, either.
As I said in the Fireside Chat, some of these penalties—like defensive holding in the secondary—are being made because the Lions can’t beat the other guys clean. If they’re losing the one-on-one battles, they’re going to commit more penalties to prevent total disaster. Further, we heard in the offseason that the Lions’ coaching staff was going to accept the occasional offsides or encroachment call from the defensive line in order to get as much jump off the snap as possible. The pointless after-the-play personal fouls have to stop—but other than that, there’s not a lot that can be done. This team is what it is, and what it is wasn’t good enough to win yesterday.
So . . . now what? Two weeks, then the Lions start up again. For the second straight year, the Lions will have a healthy Matthew Stafford at the the helm as they host the Redskins—and the leashes will be off. From here on out, the Lions have nothing to lose—they can bench habitual mistake-makers, they can bomb it down the field, they can call any blitz they want. Without the absolute, suffocating necessity to play mistake-free football, the Lions can cut loose and have fun. They can attack without abandon on both sides of the ball, they can play the young guys whenever and wherever they want. . . and who knows? With that schedule, they just might win a bunch of ballgames in the process.
The 2010 Lions’ season is over, requesicat in pace. But maybe, just maybe, the 2011 Lions’ season has just begun . . .