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4 takeaways from the Lions’ loss to the Vikings at the end of the season

No more football, no more games.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Lions closed out their season 5-11 with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, their compatriot in misery in the NFC North. Both teams fell upon hard times, lost hopes and wasted efforts. It was only fitting they would find their bitter ends here, in Detroit, in an empty dome of Honolulu blue.

The rest of the NFL Week 17 slate will soon play out and determine the Lions’ draft position, but the final game on the season reveals several key points about this Lions team that should be understood and mulled upon. Here they are.

Marvin Jones Jr. goes out in style

We perhaps spent too much time wondering what would happen with Kenny Golladay in free agency when there should have been more questions about the future of Marvin Jones Jr.

The wide receiver took in 180 total yards on the day and two touchdowns, with a third taken away by a wild officiating reverse (more on that in a second). By all measures, Jones has played like a stud No. 1 receiver in the final games of the season, providing the long-proverbial “safety blanket” that Matthew Stafford has needed to perform diligently for Detroit.

If there was a case for Jones getting more money, it might be here. He will turn 31 this year, but he’s clearly got something special still in the tank; if prioritized by the next coaching staff he could very well shine bright. The question, naturally, the same one facing all of Detroit’s veterans: will Jones be willing to sit through the pains of a new coaching staff and a potential rebuild? He certainly didn’t sound eager to do so when talking to the media earlier in the week.

The NFL sent their worst and least bright to officiate this game

Mine is never to do this ridiculous discussion of the referees aligned against Detroit. Whimper and whine all you want in tweets, comments, whatever, you’re just wrong. You’ll always be wrong, forever chasing a shadow you believe to be a deadly foe. There’s no value in orchestrating a conspiracy against the Detroit Lions because they provide no value to scheme against.

The better answer, always, is that incompetence trumps malice (malicious incompetence even more so, but that’s besides the point).

And boy was it damn incompetent. Even Dead Blandino on the broadcast was dumbfounded on the reversal of Jones’ touchdown. The Lions are always good for at least one game staffed by zebras tripping on acid and they saved the best stuff for after the New Years party.

The defense needs a hero (or two, or three)

With this game, the Lions have allowed the most yards in a season in franchise history. The last time they set this record was 2008.

It bears no introduction to the football sin (he has several legitimate sins by my count) of Matt Patricia: a disheveled defense adhering to no sensical construction. Any and all playmakers this defense had are gone, exiled and defenestrated.

I don’t know who the next general manager will be for Detroit. I don’t know who the next coach will be. I don’t know if Stafford will still hold court with this team, or if Jones or Golladay will walk in free agency, I don’t know any of that.

What I do know is that the Lions will be utter fools to yet again neglect their defense with their high draft picks. Today was yet another lesson in that same, tired refrain.

The Lions have not picked a serviceable pass rusher since Ezekiel Ansah.

If the Lions cannot acquire talent that can put pressure on a quarterback, then any other area of focus will be a waste. An utter, useless waste. Quarterback, wide receiver, whatever: this defense needs to be improved next year. I will lose my damn mind.

Maybe Romeo Okwara sticks around, but that cannot be the only threat to the opposing quarterback. The more this need is ignored, the longer any rebuild will last.

The season is over

The season is over.

The season is over.

It was a wretched, ugly thing, but the ugliness was necessary. The world had to see the truth for what it was: Patricia had no business being a head coach. His attitude, his philosophy and his talent had no basis being among any of the 32 squadrons in the NFL. It had to be excised, cut out at any cost. It finally was, and Detroit has paid the price for dragging its feet on the matter.

Too many questions to linger on if you let them. Will Stafford be back with Detroit next year? Who can even start on the defense? What good can be taken from this year’s performances, if any seems applicable? Which one of the myriad coaches and general manager candidates will the Lions hire, and will they even be an attractive destination when measured up against other openings?

The wonderful, wretched thing about the NFL’s offseason is that it’s too damn long. You can spend all these months wondering, dreaming coke dreams about Vince Lombardi Incarnate, a conquering hero to save this team; the hidden ubermensch late in the draft, everyone working hard, returning in the Best Shape of His Life when camp returns. COVID-19 vanquished by then, of course. A much simpler, happier time than the actual business of football on the field.

So go ahead and dream those for now, Lions fan. The season is over.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.