I just can't wipe that smile off my face. One measly little regular season win should never feel this good, but I can't help it... it just does. As I've read through this morning's local and national articles about the Lions' win, there is one underlying theme: this win felt just as good for the players as it did for the fans. Now that the losing streak is over, I think for the first time we can see what a massive stranglehold it had on the players. Maybe not so much the guys brought in this year, but definitely for the few remaining holdovers. And even going back to last year, I now firmly believe that losing has much more of a psychological effect on a game's outcome than I ever credited it for. The outpouring of emotion from guys like Backus and Raiola was very telling. This indeed was the proverbial monkey on their backs and was weighing them down more than I ever suspected. Now that the tremendous burden is lifted, we will see if the opposite is true - which I believe it can be - can a team be lifted to wins with a simple winner's approach and attitude?
But let's be real here. The next three games... at Chicago, home against Pittsburgh, then at Green Bay... are going to be very tough to win. I think if we can steal one of those, that would be a true blessing. That's the logical side of my brain talking, which is always trying to stay even-keeled and realistic. This side of my brain appreciates the win, but sees that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. But the other side of my brain, the off-the-meds, uneven, lack-of-reasoning fan side of me, says, "Yeah, but what if...." Hmmm... yeah, what if? I was sure to pay special attention to both the Bears and Steelers games yesterday (love my FREE NFL Sunday Ticket) and I spent the afternoon flipping back and forth between the two. Still punch-drunk and on cloud nine from the win, the fan side of my brain took over. I started to see how both of these teams looked beatable. Chicago fought back from behind, but struggled at times against a vulnerable Seattle defense. Pittsburgh looked quite average against a Cincy team with a new found sense of purpose. Heh... we could have beaten either of those teams today, I thought. If we play tough against both teams, we could legitimately be 3-2 heading into Green Bay. Hmmm....
See... this is what winning does for you. Too bad for me the logical side usually wins every day aside from Sundays. This morning, I am back to my senses. Still relishing the beautiful win, but fully realizing what lies ahead for our Lions. There are going to be more losses. There are going to be more horrendous rookie interceptions thrown by Stafford. Our defensive secondary will have streaks where they simply get torched. That's reality, I guess. But there is also a renewed sense of hope in the win. Yesterday showed that there will be more wins, too. Stafford has continually progressed and will have good games that actually help us win. The defense is much better than last year and has shown that it can be very tough at times. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it is getting brighter each week... the true sign of progress.
Thoughts About the Game:
- I love what Jim Schwartz brings to the city and to the organization. I love that his first comments after the game were basically, "why is everyone so surprised... didn't we expect to win?" I love that the first thing on his mind when he got the team together in the locker room was the fans. I love that we have a coach that is a true asset before, during and after a game. From me personally, I just want to say "Congratulations on the win, Coach". I'm sure this is the first of many and the start of something wonderful.
- We got to see our first real glimpse of the Lions' future through the solid play of the talented young core of this team. Every rookie that saw significant playing time, played very well. Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas, Levy, Hill... all of them made contributions to the win. Other young guys like Cohen, Ramirez, Cherilus and especially Smith and C. Johnson, are the reasons that there is so much to be excited about in the years to come. If there was any doubt that Kevin Smith was the real deal... that debate can be put to bed. He was phenomenal against a solid run defense and would have ended the game over 150 yds if he would not have gotten hurt, no question. It may not all come together every game, but when it does, it is a beautiful thing.
- I am still quite pissed about having to watch the Lions' win on a grainy, lagged internet stream. I know that the NFL is pretty dead-set in its ways with the blackout policy, but hopefully the national attention it is getting from situations like this is putting a few dents in the armor. We can do nothing but hope, because I fear this wasn't even close to the last time we'll have to watch a game this way.
- Kudos to Scott Linehan who called a great game this Sunday. Unlike the first two games where there were many instances of questionable playcalling, I thought this game was nearly perfect. The only play I can remember that left me scratching my head was the Lions' last offensive play of the game. With as well as Stafford played, I thought they should have let him try to convert and let the victory kneeling begin, but that is being nitpicky. Hope you have another one up your sleeve for Chicago....
- I didn't realize this, but Phillip Buchanon was benched, not injured (per Tom Kowalski). He was even active for the game, but didn't play a snap. Not sure what this says about our already suspect secondary, but in my mind, this is the unit that scares me the most. I wrote about this earlier this summer and now my fears are confirmed about this being our weakest link. At times, Campbell was simply lighting up our secondary. It is a big concern that throws some clouds on an otherwise sunny defensive performance. We'll have to watch what happens with Buchanon over the coming days. If it is strictly a performance issue with him, I wouldn't be surprised to see him cut by the end of the week.
- Okay, so I would be remiss if I didn't talk about Stafford's performance yesterday. I need to be careful, because I don't want to either overstate or understate the significance of it. I don't want to understate it because it was truly his coming out party as an NFL quarterback. Not that he made all the throws, but he was confident, showed real leadership ability and was a huge part of the Lions winning that game. The big third down conversions again and again showed that he belongs at this level. He needed to have this game to prove his worth almost as much as the Lions as a team needed a win. I really think he won over the fans and the locker room with his swagger and ability yesterday. Then again, I don't want to overstate the significance, because it is only one of three games that he has played well. He is going to have more bad outings, more bad interceptions and probably lose a game or two for this team with his mistakes. But if you sprinkle a good performance and a win here and there and show consistent progress, they become forgivable rookie offenses. We just need to see the flashes of greatness from time to time, just to remind everyone why we made the investment. Yesterday was a big flash and everyone can collectively exhale (short-term). If there is any doubt that Stafford is significantly progressing, just look at his QB rating over the last three games .... NO: 27.4, MIN: 56.5, WAS: 87.8
Congrats to everyone here at POD on the win yesterday. What a great group of fans we have! I know the last couple of weeks we have all been a bit chippy, but this win should cure a lot of that. Kick back and enjoy this one for a few days... then it's time to get ready to kick the stuffing out of the "teddy" Bears!