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Kool Aid Hangover: The Detroit Lions don’t trust themselves

The Lions got into a Mexican standoff with themselves on Sunday. How do they get out of this mess?

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Sunday’s result between the Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions is officially called a tie, 27-27 in overtime. Lions fans are swift to react to it as a loss—anything that sees a 18-point lead evaporate is easy to read as such. I prefer to regard the Sunday tilt as a Mexican standoff. Nobody can possibly win, but nobody’s getting out of this one without getting shot somewhere tender.

Rest assured, the particular conundrum wasn’t with the Cardinals, but with themselves. The Lions has split ranks and arranged revolvers at each renegade faction. Nobody was sure of anything anymore. In the aftermath, they sought answers, but only found more confusion and yelling.

Tuco knows this, though: Mexican standoffs happen when nobody can trust nobody else. That’s where the big irons come out and point every which way. For the Lions, there was a supreme shortage of trust in themselves. That is the most damning property of this encounter altogether.

Matthew Stafford definitely wanted the trust of his coaches. He screamed for it on the sidelines, hoping anyone would listen, right after the coaching staff blew a game-winning play dead with a premature timeout.

“We have to do a better job of getting lined up a little quicker, getting out of the huddle a little bit quicker, to make sure the sideline has got confidence in us to get the play off in time,” he said after the game.

It would have been even better if you could have trusted this coaching staff to draw up something better, really anything better, at all, in any possible universe, than four verts as the replacement play on a third-and-5 to ice the wretched affair.

The Lions would certainly like to trust their offensive line, which seems poised for disappointment, rank trouble all along the way. Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs teamed up to body Stafford three times on the day; those two plus a supporting cast racked up eight tackles for loss.

It would behoove someone, anyone, to trust that this defense could keep playing at a high level, but nobody seemed to really buy it and decided playing a prevent scheme was the right idea to go with 10 minutes left. In 2019, you’d think everyone would have gotten the message that anything short of a 35-point lead is still vulnerable in the modern game of football.

The only thing a prevent defense does is it prevents a clean win. That’s just old college knowledge, folks.

What’s most baffling here is that this isn’t supposed to be the way it is after training camp and preseason. Glowing reports from Allen Park came daily about how coordinators and players were on the same page, how chemistry was building at a fever pitch. The plan was in place, the Process was good and clean and trust-worthy.

Ho ho. Those are fine words, but the NFL doesn’t care for your chipper attitude. The season is here and that fat bastard butcher’s got the knives out.

Here’s the good news: the Lions aren’t the ultimate losers from Sunday’s abattoir of NFL action. They’re not the Dolphins, where players are fleeing for lifeboats; nor are they the Steelers, staring up at the ceiling and wondering what just went wrong. And the Lions walked out of Glendale without grievous injuries to any particular position, which separates them from the listless Jaguars.

Detroit, after one week of action, shares more in common with the Cleveland Browns, upon which all hope was foisted and then met with cold meathook reality of uncaring competition. Expectations were high against an easy target, and the result falls far from acceptable parameters. Confidence was built over three quarters; it took the rest of a four-hour tilt to shred it all.

The collapse hurts more than anything, given how stark the result was. For three quarters and change the Lions played with confidence in themselves and their defense and their quarterback, right up until they didn’t. It could have been shredded a lot worse if Tramaine Brock had been just half an inch more on the money jumping Stafford’s throw in overtime.

That trust can be rebuilt, salvaged and maybe put to some semi-patriotic use. After all, all the elements were there to make something out of this season that could possibly look competent; perhaps even competitive.

But it has to come fast. Walk slow, and Bronx cheers will be back at Ford Field in time for the first three-and-out against the Los Angeles Chargers. Then the schedule gets really mean.

It’s hard to earn trust back when you’ve lost it before. The current coaching regime has been squandering that trust for 17 games now. They want to prove they can be the big boys, they can do better than all those who came before them and put the stern winning ways in place.

For their trouble, they’ve drawn their iron and got iron drawn on them. Time is running out. Tick tock.

The first ingredient to Honolulu Blue Kool Aid is one part tequila blanco.