The Detroit Lions had an opportunity to seize a division title with a home game to close out the season.
It’s no surprise to Lions fans that they didn’t win. The Lions have a history of finding new ways to make their incredibly passionate fans scratch their heads and feel disappointment — even in an optimistic season. It’s a balance that no Lions fan has a handle on.
From no playoff wins in 25 years to an 0-16 season, it takes a special fan to believe in the Lions.
But with eight fourth-quarter comeback victories, the most in NFL history in a single season, these Lions gave fans reason to believe. Matthew Stafford had a knack for playing his best with the game on the line all season.
That wasn’t the case on Sunday as Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers defeated the Lions at Ford Field to clinch the NFC North Division title.
The Lions still locked up a playoff spot, but only because Washington had lost to the New York Giants earlier Sunday. Detroit, which was a first-place team for weeks, ended up having to back into the playoffs with some help.
But the fact that this year’s team is a playoff team is still pretty impressive. Going into this season, things didn’t look optimistic.
The greatest receiver in the history of the franchise, Calvin Johnson, had retired despite being in his prime, and it created a glaring hole in the offense.
There has been just one other Lions legend retire at his prime, Barry Sanders, one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
Ironically, the Lions, who have struggled to make the playoffs the past quarter century, made the playoffs in the season following the retirement of both Sanders and Johnson — two of the greatest players in the team’s history.
So the Lions being contenders was a bit surprising, but once you are a contender, you have to contend.
The Lions didn’t play with the same sense of urgency that Green Bay did. They had the Sunday night game on the final day of the season, so it is always interesting to see how teams will react in that situation, knowing that all other games are done and playoff spots just depend on this game now.
Maybe knowing Washington lost and the Lions were in the playoffs no matter what was enough to make Detroit too comfortable and not urgent enough. But there was still plenty on the line. Instead of a home playoff game, which would have been Detroit’s first since 1993, the Lions are going on the road to Seattle, arguably the toughest place to play — especially in the playoffs.
Instead Green Bay gets a home game and will use that advantage with single-digit temperatures expected at Lambeau Field when the Packers host the Giants.
The Lions will have no advantage with Seattle’s 12th Man drowning out any other sound in the stadium.
The Lions have spent the better part of the past quarter century coming up with new and heartbreaking ways to come up short. Sunday was no different, but Saturday night in Seattle could be different. It could be a signature moment in franchise history if the Lions can win one on the road — especially in Seattle.
But that may be getting a little too hopeful. The Lions will find a way to bring that hope and belief back down … or will they?