Three Cups Deep: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders

>> 12.20.2011

coffee Let’s get one thing straight right now: nobody controls their own destiny.

It’s impossible; destiny is what’s written in the stars. It’s capital-D Destiny, the end the fates have penned for us. If you believe in Destiny, then you know the story of this Lions season has already been written. We’re just flipping through the pages, week after week, chapter after chapter

No matter what happens in the final chapter, we know this much: it’s a hell of a story.

You know whoever’s got the pen knows exactly what they’re doing. I’ve said before that this Lions team has an identity, and it’s Matthew Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson and his receivers, as Ndamukong Suh and the defensive line prevent the other side from keeping pace.

Well, Matthew Stafford led a 98-yard comeback drive, capped it off with a touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh (back from suspension) blocked the Raiders’ potential game-winning field goal. The symbolism is so thick Earnest Hemingway could cut it with a knife. In the rain.

The Lions won the game, and as a result they are winners. Not just noble losers, or not-losers, they are winners. They have won more games than they can possibly lose this year, for the first time in over a decade. It’s incredible, it’s unbelievable . . . but is it surprising?

Via text and Twitter, I received messages throughout the game that saw it both ways. Some were sure the Lions had already disappeared, Marty McFly style, from the NFC playoff picture. Some, though, were convinced the Lions had it in the bag—they were just watching to find out how Stafford and company would pull it off this time.

Three seasons ago, the Lions played an entire season and didn’t win a single game. On Sunday, Matthew Stafford had just been sack-fumble-six’d to go down 27-14 with 7:47 on the road in Oakland with the season on the line, and he played like he’d just been waiting for the Raiders to make it interesting.

Stafford kicked it into an incredible gear. He was both more intense and much calmer. His passes, a little sail-y and a little gunslinger-y all day, were laser-guided cotton balls. He shrugged off some excruciating drops, avoided the rush, even took matters into his own hands on 4th-and-2, juking out a linebacker to pick up the game-saving first down.

We knew Matthew Stafford was a gamer when NFL Films mic’d him up for that legendary comeback against the Browns. But we didn’t know if he’d ever be good enough, or he’d ever have a good enough team around him, for the “gamer” thing to matter. What Stafford did that day was nothing short of incredible, and watching it gives me chills to this day.

But he did it to beat a wretched Browns team with a coach who’s coaching his D-III alma mater now and a quarterback who got traded for a backup white running back and made it look like a steal for the team that traded him away. This time, Stafford clutched up to not only beat a playoff contender on the road, he did to to save—and possibly, cement—the Lions’ first playoff campaign in twelve years.

Now, the Lions’ path couldn’t be straighter. They have two games to do what they’ve done nine times already this year: win a game. They win, they’re in—that’s it. That’s the challenge. Unfortunately, the fates have damned the Lions once again: they must either beat one of the most talented teams in football just as they’re hitting their stride, or travel to Lambeau Field and leave with a “W,” which they haven’t done since 1991.

If the last chapter in this story is the NFL playoffs, the Lions are going to have to come up with their most mind-boggling, credulity-straining performance yet. Just the way Matthew Stafford likes it.


Joshua Pung,  December 20, 2011 at 9:50 AM  

I was the Marty McFly style doubter. As long as they keep dishing it out without losing their cool, this team can beat any team in the league. But when they lose it... the lose. (my blog on it was here: ) While the Lions had 10 penalties, most were ticky-tack stuff, although they did pretty much account for one touchdown drive. Still, none of them were the maddening late-hit variety. Huge improvement.

I agree Ty - this is just an awesome season to be a part of! Even if they suffer a first round loss to a team like the Saints, you have to get there to lose a game -- and only 12 teams get to do that. The other 20 go home and watch, and wish. I'll be thrilled no matter what happens in the playoffs as long as they get there. This team isn't built as a one year wonder. Mayhew has built it to comepte for the next decade.

Tyler Werkema,  December 20, 2011 at 4:19 PM  

Definitely a page turner. Stafford is the hero of this story and I can't wait until the next page. I hope everyone can now see that he is not a "china doll" and he has what it takes to win. As far as what will happen this year or the next few years; in the words of Bart Scott..."Can't wait".

bigwalt2990,  December 22, 2011 at 5:11 PM  

Or the Lions could just execute for 8 quarters. crazy talk i know. save our hearts the strain of these comebacks. I enjoy seeing them win handily once in awhile.

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