Things fall down in life from time to time. In times like these, it's important to take the little wins and cherish them. That was the feeling in the air that September day. But to really understand that, you have to go back a little. Back to when the world seemingly ended for Lions fans around the world. The day the hope died.
December 28, 2008. That is a day that should live in infamy for all Lions fans. That was the day the Lions would lose their 16th straight game and complete the first winless season in NFL history. Of course it had to happen in Green Bay, didn't it? Here we are eight years later, and I still can't explain the feeling I felt that day. To have your team accomplish such a historic low not only hurts the players in the team, it hurts the fans just as much, if not more.
Think about it, if you're a Lions fan, this moment has defined a lot of things for you over the last eight years. Fans of other teams are always eager to bring it up in conversation as a way to stifle Lions fans from talking smack, or as a way to get themselves out of a corner if they're wrong about the Lions. The players on that team got to move on. We stayed and got all of the flack for it.
Today's piece isn't about the 2008 season necessarily. It's about the climb out of the crater hole that the 2008 season left behind. Today it's somewhat easy to look at that season as more of a blessing than a curse based off what transpired during and after the season. Obviously the termination of Matt Millen was a key moment in this franchise's history. But the summer brought a moment that changed everything.
After the Lions made Jim Schwartz their new head coach, the next biggest step was to find their quarterback of the future. At the time, the 2009 draft had three quarterbacks that looked like they could potentially lead the Lions out of the darkness. Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, who was my personal favorite at the time, and a scruffy looking kid named Matthew Stafford.
As we got closer to draft day, it was pretty clear that Matthew Stafford would be the pick. After being the number one prospect coming out of high school and a great college career, it was easy to see this as a no-brainer. The Lions knew this. That's why they signed the contract before the draft even officially started. Here we are eight years later and Stafford is playing MVP caliber football and on pace for the best year of his career. He, of course, also holds every Lions passing record under the sun. In a way, he may have been the most important Lions draft pick in franchise history. But that's an argument for another day.
The jokes flew rampant. Could this goofy 21 year old kid be the difference that so many Lions quarterbacks before him couldn't be?
We spent the rest of the offseason wondering if it was possible or wondering why the Lions drafted Brandon Pettigrew and what's so good about this Deandre Levy guy?
Finally the day came to start the 2009 season and everything appeared to go right back to normal. The Lions lost yet again. This time to the would be Super Bowl champion Saints. Stafford threw three interceptions and never reached the end zone. Could it all be happening again? Next week, same story, different team. The Lions got blown out by the Vikings and Stafford threw two interceptions. But he got his first passing touchdown.
With 19 straight losses on the board, the Lions hosted the Washington Redskins in Week 3, a team they hadn't beaten in nine years. This wasn't necessarily a pretty game. The Redskins we're going through struggles of their own at the time. This was clearly the first game the Lions had any remote chance of winning.
They wasted little time in drawing first blood in the first quarter of a 21-yard Bryant Johnson touchdown grab. Two Jason Hanson field goals in the second quarter widened the gap and the Lions took a 13-0 lead into the half. Despite Washington putting in two touchdowns of their own, the Lions never lost a grip on the game and Maurice Morris put the icing on the cake with a 2-yard touchdown.
I'll never forget the feeling watching time run down and seeing Washington's laterals finally come to an end. The Lions had finally broken the streak and picked up their first win since December 2007. I ran down street through the apartment complex to celebrate with friends. Everyone went crazy.
People frequently ask "why even be a Lions fan when they put you through so much pain?" A moment like this is why. You go through so much hell that every time you get a peek at heaven it's a beautiful thing.
Of course we know how the rest of the season went. The Lions only won one more game and that was definitely the more exciting game due to Matthew Stafford's last second heroics. And, of course, eight years down the road, this game is a forgotten memory and the Lions are a completely different team with completely different highs and lows.
At the end of the day, this is a perfect example of falling and getting back up. Why do people love the Lions? Because you get little bonus life lessons like this. Hopefully the Lions can keep their streak of wins going against the Redskins this Sunday.