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The Hangover: When you chase a dragon

A weekly column pondering football madness. Errors and casualties from a Lions win at Lambeau, the end of the line for Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton's fury and bedfellows at the bottom of the league.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Hangover is an attempt to collect thoughts on the Detroit Lions and the NFL and anything else stuck in the craws of the mind on Tuesday after all football has burned out. All opinions belong solely to the writer and all facts belong to that evil new war god of unfeeling thought.

I failed to get this out on Monday on part because of a hellish celebration that began the minute Mason Crosby's kick landed harmlessly at the base of the Packers' "E" in the south endzone. It oozed itself into the game recap, full of sweat and panic and rum and endorphins. But here we are. The rubble is around us. They burned Lambeau to the ground, the lunatics. Nothing will be the same. Or maybe that was the fever, still. Let's go.


Wondrous victory. Elixir of kings, ward against the ravenous horde demanding termination. The Lions drank it deep after Sunday. However, if there was ever an indicator to a season, the Lions may have used up their strength to achieve such heights.

The Lions cornerback roster currently sits at three, not counting the potential addition of Alex Carter. Good men spent their bodies In the Name of Football to stop 25 years of futility. Rashean Mathis was already gone with a concussion, a casualty of the season and strange diagnosis. Another concussion now grips Nevin Lawson. Josh Wilson had to be taken away and cannot walk on his own two legs.

Is it the price of this game? Perhaps, but we grapple this savage nature of the game each day. Either way, the Lions still have more campaigns to wage this year. The emotions of winning in Lambeau are enough to suppress this horror, to speak the words "totally worth it." Perhaps, for the minimax fan, it's a blessing as it lowers the capacity to win, raising the capacity to win in the draft instead. The improvements on the secondary from this game will probably not be replicated (this statement exempts Darius Slay).


Sure, there were ten men on the field for that final field goal. But what does that matter?

The Lions lucked out on the last play because Mason Crosby short-circuited. That's the long and short of it. Another man on the field wouldn't have mattered much. What would the 11th do? The obvious screed is that he'd "block a kick" but this gets us to the futility of being a special teams player trying to do anything, anything against the field goal unit (Unless you're a man of infinite stature and goodness like Chris Davis).

But the numbers of kicks that are actually blocked in this league are still low enough that I'm not sure the difference between 10 and 11 men was going to change much. In this season only nine teams have blocked field goals, with the tied leaders in St. Louis and Carolina still blocking less than 10% of the time. In 2014 the best block percentage was completed by Jacksonville at 11.54% (3 blocks on 26 attempts).' Sure, around 10% is a pretty good probability to hope for, but then you have to factor in what an extra man would add/remove from that probability. Blocking a kick still requires a good deal of luck. No one really replicates it with reliability.

No, I have a hard time blaming Caldwell too much that this apparently happened twice. With the chaos surrounding the coaching staff, execution will suffer. Only the rube gives a job he's inevitably leaving his undivided attention.

This all said, if the Crosby kick had twisted differently, the reality of the situation would turn with savage intensity against this fact.


Many a great man has chased the dragon. A dope fiend will rise higher and higher, seeking a final plateau that will never come. They never tell you what happens when you catch the vile serpent. No armor you have created for yourself will stop its venomous fangs when you grab the beast's tail.

There are dragons in football too. The thrill of competition is a devil that could never be placed in a pipe. Most of us squares would be dead in an instant on that one. The true competitor is made of stronger stuff, a genetic trick that allows tolerance.

Peyton Manning kept chasing that demon. We all watched with horror, we read the details of his injuries, we were all prepared for the inevitability of his fight. The thrill of One More High was too much. It happened. Just like that. On a day that was to be his celebration, everything went crashing down. You could have played the game in Vegas, or maybe South Beach.

No, I don't believe Manning will come back. I reject the notion that he deserves another go at it, too. That was written years ago when he first arrived in Denver. At this point it's enough. The ghost of a ring will haunt him for a while, but this will pass as Manning becomes part of the history of the National Football League, no longer subject to the hot takes and criticism and questions we demand of everyone who currently plays. The retired legend faces far less scrutiny; the good is propelled above the bad.

When he retires we'll stop asking if he needs another ring. We'll forget about Jeff Saturday and that idiot kicker. He'll be ready for the Hall of Fame right away. Endorsements will still ring; he might be more renown for Nationwide than football at this point. Networks will fight in the streets for his studio analysis.

But this all rings hollow for Peyton Manning. Someone will have to drag him away kicking and screaming as he tries again and again to come back from these wounds. And we'll watch with worry.


The Lions will quickly be back at the top of the draft. Of this I am certain. But for the time being, there's company down at the bottom of this scrum. Hello Dallas Cowboys!

America's Team prowls the bottom of the NFC East at 2-7. They are undoubtedly out of the playoffs. There's no reason to consider the notion any longer. That said, Jerry Jones is a man of Texas. Bullets and bills and chips spill out of his pockets as he rushes to get Tony Romo back in a meaningless season.

The Cowboys are not the sort to tank. It is against their very nature, much akin to their basketball brethren in Los Angeles. Without a doubt, Tony Romo is an upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden, like gripping an AR-15 after using a flintlock musket for centuries. Fears that the Cowboys might be anywhere near the precious draft spot Lions fans seek should be allayed somewhat in that regard.

However, it's still possible the Lions and Cowboys share that same stratosphere near the end of the year. The remaining schedule for Dallas does not speak favorably, even with a returning Romo. Miami is certainly winnable, as are one or two games against the Washington football team. Green Bay may be vulnerable now, but can such weakness be sustained? It's difficult to see wins against the other powers that remain.

Thankfully, the draft is such that there will be plenty of options for the Lions and Boys alike when the chips are down.


Come on. Seriously, this can't be right. Andy Dalton is talking about the integrity of the game when J.J. Watt barks out a useless "Red Ryder BB gun" joke? Where does this vision come from? How does it make any earthly sense? No. He couldn't have said that.

Okay. Hold up. J.J. Watt's comments were useless. I suppose this is his clever barb but it is ultimately minuscule. For Andy, this short-circuit was bound to happen. Every word Dalton used in the statement after the game has been programmed into the quarterback PR microchip since version 3.47. It's been a while since there's been this significant of a glitch. The quarterback was designed by a team of experts to never say anything useful; hit the buzzwords, give the good media folks what they want, distract and scene.

You can see those same words creep in there. "Integrity of this game." "Lot of kids." "I have a lot of respect for him." The pieces are there but the syntax is completely wrong. Something is happening. It's rather fascinating to watch. Is A Christmas Story so harmful to the youth of the nation? Personally I find nothing but contempt for that film, but I am also not in charge of spawnlings.

Perhaps I shouldn't question this turn of events. After all, dancing is no longer explicable to children. Dabo Swinney has corrupted our youth.

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