As I sat in Ford Field just a few short weeks ago watching our Detroit Lions clinch their first playoff birth since I was 10 years old, in dominating fashion I might add, I was proud, no matter the outcome in the coming weeks of this team. The San Diego Chargers had come into our great city of Detroit looking to stay alive, to rain on our parade but what they left with was a crushing defeat from the hands of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and a defense who stepped up and shut down the run game for the first time in a long time. The dismantling of the Pro Bowl caliber quarterback Phillip Rivers was not only impressive but a must in a time where a city so desperate for greatness was hanging on every play. For the first time in over a decade the Lions marched to the playoffs. I was there, at 22 years young, I had just watched my beloved Detroit Lions go on a much needed 3 game win streak to clinch an NFC Wild Card berth and I could not have been more proud of the players, coaches, staff and most importantly the fans.
Just a couple years removed from the 0-16 team we all would soon like to forget this team was about to be prime time, in the spotlight, playing in the playoffs. It really is quite amazing how quickly Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz and company flipped a 53 man 0-16 roster into a 10-6 playoff team. As Stafford surgically took apart the Chargers defense that Christmas Eve I was quite amazed by the crowd’s passion for every moment of the night. By the end of the 3rd quarter in the Motor City the fans of Lions chanted playoffs, playoffs, playoffs and it was evident then that this team no matter the outcome of 2011 had done great things and is destined in the near future to accomplish the great task of all, getting to a Super Bowl. I strongly believe behind the arm of Matthew Stafford and the hands of Calvin Johnson that soon this team with just a couple more pieces will accomplish something every person in this great state of Michigan is so hungry for, a Super Bowl. This city is to proud to be 0-16, to proud to be NFL bottom feeders and way to damn proud to sit back and let talent go wasted. Despite a couple holes left to fill this team is prepared to go back to work after our recent defeat to the New Orleans Saints and put together a team and franchise that can accomplish the highest goals. One more great draft, one more great free agency and we will be there. I predicted before the season 8-8 and that this team was not only 1 more season away from a playoff berth but 2 or 3 seasons from being serious Super Bowl contenders. But I was wrong, many of us were wrong, this team has turned quickly, matured so fast and next year will be serious Super Bowl contenders.
As much as this playoff defeat hurts right now, we will look back on this season as the turning point in a great franchise. That this season was a success, that the Lions out performed so many expectations so quickly and are on the way to so much greatness. The young pieces that stand before us fans are some of the best in the NFL. Calvin Johnson this season undoubtedly proved to us that not only is he uncover able but the best wide receiver in the NFL. That his size, speed, strength and hands are no match for any one DB let alone two. Matthew Stafford unfortunately had one of the better seasons in NFL history that will sadly go unnoticed. He threw for over 5000 yards, 40 touchdowns and led 4 comebacks of 13 points or more. Any other year Stafford would not only be a Pro Bowl quarterback but the MVP of the NFL. We of course all know the talent of the defense but what I would most like to point out is that this next season will almost be like 2 draft classes coming in. Getting back last years second round pick who hasn’t touched the field Mikel Leshoure and Javid Best to gain an explosive running game much like the Saints who beat us and what this team needs for perfect balance. We will have a fully healthy Nick Fairly, our first round pick, who seen a much limited season due to injury and really no opportunity to unleash his talents. Also most importantly we have so much more less holes to fill now that this team with the first two picks this off season and maybe the addition of 1 or 2 more key free agents will become serious Super Bowl contenders. It starts there, moves to the goals of winning this division and then to get some kind of bye week in the playoffs because much like us Green Bay and New Orleans are built to contend for years to come. This season has come to an end we all wished didn’t happen but we all can respect. That it wasn’t yet our time to shine but our time to learn. That this season, this team has gained so much key experience but also an elite wide receiver and an elite quarterback. It’s a bittersweet end to an amazing ride and I would just like to personally thank the Detroit Lions on one of the most memorable journeys I have had since I was that young 10 year old boy.