I was getting The Fear.
The Lions had clearly established themselves as the better team, put it in cruise control in the third quarter, and inspired rapturous feelings of confidence in me and Lions fans everywhere. But the Lions had surrendered a long drive to the Bucs for the first time all day—saved by a huge fourth-down stop—and answered with a three-and-out. The Bucs the finally breeched the Lions’ defensive wall; suddenly the forgone conclusion was gone. It was a one-score game.
We’d seen this movie before. Many times before. I took heart, though; surely the Lions’ offense would take matters into their own hands. Jahvid Best had been effective running out the clock all day, and Stafford was completing over 70% of his passes. We’d seen some truly creative playcalling from Linehan today, so maybe . . .
Jerome Harrison. Jerome Harrison. Jerome Harrison. Net gain: four yards. Oh, and then Gosder Cherilus committed an obvious and idiotic penalty to hand the timeoutless Buccaneers a free clock stoppage.
After a mercifully huge Ryan Donahue punt, the suddenly-awake Buccaneers offense now had 1:07 to go 80 yards. If you’ve been a Lions fan for more than five weeks, you know in your heart how this story ends: with the Buccaneers finding a way to make it happen, likely with some assistance from the Lions.
Neil at Armchair Linebacker has written many times about The Fear. It’s the horrible burden Lions fans bear, the shellshocked memories of all the traumatic losses we’ve seen. It’s the psychological reaction to having it come out for the worst time after time after time. We get that sinking, shaking fear in our bellies and we just can’t bear to watch as it all, surely, slips away again, victory just out of reach, another week of wouldas, couldas, and shouldas our only comfort . . . .
Only, this year really is different. This team really is something special. The 2011 Lions are a good team. As in, better than most other teams. The ending didn’t follow that same old script, and the Bucs reduced themselves to ridiculousness trying to do that Stanford many-lateral thing as time expired. Time expired. The Lions WON.
With that, the Lions went to 1-0, starting their season off on the right foot for the first time since 2007. They extended their road winning streak to three games, and overall streak to five. They return home this week to face the battered Kansas City Chiefs, then they travel to Minnesota . . . and suddenly, it looks as though Monday Night Football will be played with a lot more than bragging rights at stake.