I’m supposed to be on vacation right now, but something special happened on Sunday. Something special enough to get me to write my Monday column from my phone in an Airbnb in New Orleans. The Detroit Lions got their first win of the 2021 season and of Dan Campbell’s era.
I put down the gumbo and found a room I could hide away in, and I have to get this take out there. The Detroit Lions are going to be just fine.
Normally there would be some sort of overreaction on Monday. This week, it’s just a reaction, because outside of the really bad fourth-and-1 call and what looked like the makings of another second half collapse, the biggest thing to react to isn’t an overreaction at all. What I saw on Sunday was what I’ve seen a little from this team every week. I saw a team and a coaching staff that’s learning on the job.
This particular game had a lot ups and downs. Early on in the season, the Lions would have crumbled under the pressure of those ups and downs, but this week they figured it out. This week they used that resiliency they’ve played with all season and didn’t let that fourth-and-1 debacle shut them down. They overcame it.
So, if the 2021 season has been a season of lessons, the Lions leaned a really important one on Sunday. They learned how to overcome. They also learned how sweet a win can be. Look at how this team celebrated their win with each other. Jared Goff would have knocked down an old lady if she was in the way of the hug he put on Dan Campbell. These guys learned that they’re capable of moments like this.
They still have a long way to go. This team still has mistakes in them and they still have lessons to learn. They may also not win another game. But they have a taste of the sweetness, and I’m sure they want more of it. This was the moment this team, this franchise, and its fans needed. But patience is still a virtue.
At the end of the day, it’s really hard to come away from this game without thinking that the Lions have the right front office and coaching staff. Yes, it’s only one win, but the Lions coaching staff went out and got that win over a Vikings team that’s still in the thick of the playoff picture. And they managed to beat them with a clearly inferior roster. You have to give props where they’re due. The Lions are a full on group of ragtag misfits and they’re missing a ton of their key pieces to injury. Still, the Lions coaches are getting everything from these guys.
In so many occasions you see teams have seasons like that and you can physically see the point in the year where everyone has quit and the team is going through the motions. Look at the Texans and Jaguars on Sunday. Both teams have first-year head coaches and both got absolutely blown out. That’s not happening in Detroit. This team is fighting and scrapping and never giving up. Despite having 10 losses on the year, there are four teams with a bigger negative point differential than Detroit, because they are fighting above their weight class every single week.
I know that annoys some fans because it feels like effort doesn’t mean much without the wins, but it matters so much for the future. This is the type of culture you can build upon. It’s the kind of thing that free agents probably notice when they’re considering where to take their talents next. The Lions are a team that appears to be having fun and putting in the work ethic. I’d want to play there. Unfortunately my playing days ended in seventh grade. I would have been a great tight end on the bench in NFL. I wouldn’t have got in anyone's way, and the laundry guy would have loved my clean uniform.
You have to give some props to general manager Brad Holmes and company because the young talent they brought in had their fingerprints all over this game. Jerry Jacobs tackled everything in sight, Derrick Barnes came up huge the Vikings second two-point conversion attempt, Amon-Ra St. Brown caught the game-winning touchdown, Penei Sewell had another good game and Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike both continued to show promise.
The Lions are a one-win team with a lot of problems, but they’re on their way. This team is going to be just fine. It doesn’t feel like it right now, and it’s not going to feel like it as soon as you’d really want it to, but the Lions going to be just fine.