This was a weird game. In the first half the Lions looked like the team we all know and loathe. They scored first and then gave up 17 straight points, couldn’t do anything on offense, dropped a billion passes, let the Browns channel their inner Ike on their Tina while they were on defense, and generally looked like they would just be forced to sit helplessly while Brandon Weeden of all people embarrassed them in front of a horde of degenerate Ohioans, who then would all go and bang the family pet or jerk off in libraries or whatever it is the hell those animals do to celebrate while Jim Schwartz rode off the field, blindfolded on a hee-hawing donkey, pelted with feces and shame. It was just that kind of game. But then the Lions said fuck it, scored 24 straight points of their own and left the people of Cleveland to wallow in a pool of their own rancid tears and beat their wives and drown their children in the polluted waters of the Cuyahoga in an offering to the Shame God, who has agreed to take their filthy sacrifices, raise them as mutant bastards and populate Appalachia with them.
And so today, the children of Ohio are left to beg for mercy while the children of Michigan laugh and play in the fields of the Lord, happiness and light in their souls. This could have ended badly – I was roughly 968% sure it would end badly – but then the Lions simply remembered that they were better, stopped fucking around and broke the Browns. This is the sort of thing born of True Confidence (and again, don’t mistake True Confidence for Jackass False Bravado, which the Lions led the league in last season, and to be honest, all the seasons) as Matthew Stafford seems to be turning into a legitimate professional and not just some dumb Wild West act who panics and needs Prozac every time things start to go to hell. Today, he and the Lions went to hell, took a look around, said fuck this, and climbed right back out.
The Lions are not a great team. But they are not a bad team. They are just sort mediocre, fatally flawed in that eternal way that made me channel my inner Morrissey before the season. The good news, though, is that most of the league is mediocre in the same way. The difference is that the Lions have legit playmakers and stars, and that means that despite all those tragic flaws, they can still beat the rest of the teams stuck in this morass of ennui. They’re still going to lose to the Packers or the Saints or teams of that ilk, but there aren’t many of those teams this year (and really, even the Packers and Saints aren’t necessarily the Packers and Saints, you know?), and really, that means that the world is wide open for them right now. Just get to the playoffs and maybe something weird can happen. Who knows? In order to do that, though, they have to beat these other shitball teams. Today they did that, and so far, with one irritating exception, they’ve done that all year.
The Lions are 4-2 even though they’ve played 4 games on the road. If they can manage to go 6-2 at home – and only 4-2 to finish, which is beyond doable - they could go 2-3 on the road the rest of the way and still pull off a 10-6 season and probably a Wild Card berth. This is a thing that looks like it might happen. It’s right there. They just have to keep winning games like this.
It was a sloppy effort overall, imperfect in that maddeningly familiar way, and they failed to just line up and show the Browns who was boss, but Reggie Bush made a few big plays when it counted most – especially at the start of the second half, when the Lions desperately needed to make something happen. After he scored, it was suddenly 17-14 and you could almost visibly see the Browns and their fans tighten up like they were doing anal kegels. The defense was awful in the first half, when they let the Browns set their single season high for rushing yards in an entire game, but in the second they shut down the Browns, The Great Willie Young ate Weeden’s soul, and, oh yeah, DeAndre Levy kicked his awesome season into another gear and started firmly making his case for All-Pro honors this year.
Matthew Stafford was Matthew Stafford, only not quite as sharp – for all the horrible drops in the first half, I think I’m the only person who thought Stafford really wasn’t all that accurate either – but when it came time to put the ball in the endzone, he did, hitting new red zone weapon Joseph Fauria three times for touchdowns. (By the way, a solemn farewell to Tony Scheffler, who probably started packing shit into the trunk of his car sometime early in the 4th quarter.) This was a shitty game won by dudes who decided to put that behind them and win as professional football players, which is a welcome change. Even in that magic 2011 season, it felt like they were winning more as a collection of acrobats and circus geeks than pros. This feels different, more solid somehow, and that makes me feel better than 100 Wild West comebacks, with St. Calvin catching balls on his nose like a trained seal, and bears riding tricycles through flaming hoops. There are not nearly the same amount of OH MY GOD adrenaline spikes and there isn’t that same “Hey guys, I just shit my pants and my neighbors are now hiding in the bomb shelter and I hear sires in the distance” excitement, but that’s sort of the point. You don’t really want that all the time. You want to just smile, nod calmly, maybe do a single fist-pump and say that’ll do.
Look, in that same vein, there really isn’t a whole lot to say here. There are not 3,000 word Edgar Allan Poe short stories about night terrors doubling as blog posts to write and there aren’t any even longer hyper-adrenalized Chris Farleyesque OMG DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN THIS HAPPENED AND WHAT ABOUT THAT posts to write either. There is just this, and that’ll do.