No matter how much anger that still lingers this Monday morning at the officials, at the coaching staff, at the Detroit Lions-hating Football Gods, I keep coming back to one constant emotion. I just feel god-awful for the players.
We may be well-versed in highly improbable pain, but this is one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. Many of these kids are fresh off college careers where their team won over 75 percent of their games and they were the best athlete on the field for the majority of their careers. They’ve never experienced this kind of football pain. They’re likely still trying to figure out how to cope this loss.
This has literally never happened to an NFL team before, and to top it all off, I’m sure many of these players, through 100-mile stares, turned to their phone in the locker room and found out they may have gotten screwed by the officials, too.
Justin Tucker’s 66-yard field goal has a good chance of remaining the longest field goal in history. Jason Elam’s 63 yarder held for 15 years before it was broken by Matt Prater in 2013. That new record lasted another nine before Sunday. Now the Lions are etched in the record books likely for at least another decade—maybe longer. Because this wasn’t just the longest field goal in history, it was the longest game-winning field goal in history.
Anyway, that burden was clearly carried by the Lions players as they stood in front of podiums on Sunday afternoon, but there was also an optimistic hue to all of their responses.
Here’s what they had to say.
Goff kicked off his presser acknowledging that he knew this was nothing new for Detroit, but it certainly was new for him.
“About as big of a gut punch as I’ve ever been a part of. I guess I’ll start this off by saying that this team, this city has been through a lot, obviously, in recent years and has had these gut punches. For me personally, it’s the hardest one I’ve been a part of.”
But Goff ended with a bold proclamation: the gut punches will stop.
“I think the resiliency that we’ve shown in the past amongst this group and then hopefully the new guys as well, the resiliency to push through something like this will remain. That optimism, that hope, that belief in each other because it was there. It was really there at the end, I know you guys could feel it there at the end with the fans, the crowd into it. We were into it. We felt really good about it and they made a field goal by a foot. [...] So, all I’m saying is we will remain true, we will remain resilient and the gut punches will stop.”
The cheeriest man in the locker room at all times was far from his affable self on Sunday. A man typically willing to speak minutes on one question, Williams didn’t say much on Sunday.
“Just wanted to win, but it ain’t happen for us. Fate wasn’t on our side today. Only thing I can say is I’m just proud of my team. I’m proud of the way we keep playing and just our effort. That’s all.”
The Lions’ second-year running back was perhaps the most positive about the situation. He didn’t want to focus on the refs, he didn’t want to focus on the unbelievability of a 66-yard field goal. He’s focused on how the team needs to play better to avoid even the potential of late-game disasters.
“I mean that’s a tough one. What was it, 67? Something like that. I mean that’s a tough one. That’s all I can say. We just got to --- if we played better in the first half, we’d probably be talking about something different right now.”
The Lions outside linebacker clearly wasn’t looking for any sympathy:
“I was very disappointed, but at the same time no excuses. There are no excuses on the defense. Yeah, you’ve got to go back to work for real.”
The Lions cornerback was obviously a little down after the loss, but he wasn’t about to make any excuses:
“It’s tough, man. Like I said, we fought our tails off, I feel like. But in the NFL, you’ve got really good kickers in the League. He has a great leg. So, we just got to put ourselves in the position – not even be in that position. You know what I mean and make the plays that we need to make and get off the field.”
And like most Lions players who talked at the end, he came away hopeful with the effort the Lions put out.
“That’s the tough part about a loss sometimes. Everythings always just negative, negative, negative right after the game, but I just want to get to the facility, watch the film, because we did a lot of great things today to improve upon. I feel like every week we’ve been taking the next step. So if we can just learn from our mistakes and just keep churning, we’ll like where we’re at. “
Last week, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said he didn’t want any sympathy. He didn’t want any talk of Same Old Lions from his players or any sulking.
“I told them I don’t want to see that shit. I’m not that type of person. I’m not a negative person. I’m all about going to work. I want guys that are resilient, that are willing to go back to work. They love ball — they want to clean up their mistakes — and those are the guys I’m looking for, man. I’m not a sulker, I’m not a guy who — like, you’re not going to get me down, and those are type of people I want around me. I want guys that are looking for solutions for how we’re going to fix our mess. Because we put us in this mess. That’s what I’m looking for. We’ll be just fine. We’ll be upbeat.”
From the Lions post-game quotes after their toughest loss of the season, it seems pretty clear to me that the players are falling in line with this message. It’s a brutal loss to endure, but just about every player mentioned the strides this team is making and their eagerness to fix the issues that remain. And this was in the immediate aftermath of a brutal gut punch. I have to say, I’m impressed by their resolve.