As I circled the concourse at Qualcomm Stadium, hoping to find my sun-baked car as quickly as possible, I swatted mental demons like flies. Trying to stay positive, I quickly reminded myself that this was only one week against a good opponent on the road. But those thoughts were quickly interrupted with nightmarish visions of Keenan Allen ripping through my subconscious. And then those images merged with the suppressed memory of Blake Bortles thrashing the Lions defense during the preseason. Soon, my thoughts were spiraling out of control. Images of the Lions' god-awful 2008 defense appeared out of nowhere. The words "pad-level" and something about a pick being sharp poisoned my brain. And then I just stopped. My deeply inward glare probably looked insane to the numerous Chargers fans around, grinning, looking to rib the nearest Lions' fan. But they mostly stayed away, probably out of fear I would do something like this.
I was angry. But not particularly angry at the Lions. Not angry at blitzing on third-and-19, or failing to go for it again on fourth-and-inches. Not angry at father time for calling Stephen Tulloch and Rashean Mathis' numbers. Just mad at myself. Mad for allowing myself to get duped. Despite the many warning signs, I convinced myself that Teryl Austin was a messiah, and the Lions offense would finally turn that corner. Even though I was the biggest pessimist among the writers here, there was a part deep inside of my stomach that glowed with optimism, like a Honolulu Blue Care Bear. And Sunday, the Lions betrayed my trust. They made me feel like an idiot. They extinguished my candle of hope with a fire hose.
Of course, now more than 24 hours removed from the game, I can more clearly look at those thoughts as those of a (mostly) crazed, in-the-moment -- and severely sunburned -- Lions' fan. That game was essentially a beat down, but it was just one game, and against a presumed playoff contender on the road.
That being said, I won't let myself sugar-coat this loss. The Lions looked bad, and they looked bad all around. I don't know if you're allowed to call a game decided by five points a blowout, but this was essentially a five-point blowout. Detroit was outgained by nearly 200 yards, and that number is deceptively kind to the Lions, as it includes a Detroit 83-yard drive at the end of the game against a Chargers defense in pure prevent-defense mode. The defense looked lost, the offense looked familiarly inconsistent and the coaching was just bad.
But good teams get blown out. It happened to the Lions on the road against New England last year. And those Super Bowl winning Patriots? In Week 4, they were outgained 443-290 on their way to a 41-14 embarrassment in Kansas City against the Chiefs.
The key here is adjustment. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL at finding their own weaknesses and suppressing them. Now that the Lions have seen first-hand where they struggle, they will have to do the same. I have had plenty of questions about this coaching staff in the past, so I don't know if they'll turn it around for the remaining 15 games.
If this all seems a little unbalanced and inconsistent it's because that's essentially what being a Lions fan is to me. I'm constantly trying to temper wild optimism with the weight of history, while simultaneously searching for reasons to clasp to that optimism in the face of tragedy. And when you bear witness to such a disappointing beat down like that in the first game of the season, it's hard to maintain equilibrium.
This loss may look a lot different in January, if San Diego is in the Super Bowl or if they're picking first in the NFL draft. With so many unknowns in the equation that is the 2015 NFL season, it's hard to know what to do with this extreme data point. Are the Lions doomed or is this the outlier that the Lions are hoping it is? I just don't know. The one thing I do know as Lions' fan is that Sunday was not very fun.