It got pretty dark there for a minute, didn’t it? The Detroit Lions are in full rebuild mode and their goal in this rebuild seems to be to build a team that can show sustained success for a long time instead of building a team that can win now. That’s been pretty established.
That said, there was also an understanding that while this is a full rebuild, the Lions have to win some games at some point. At the very least, they needed to just restore some sort of good will, prove they’re capable of winning some close games, all while they creep slowly towards being true contenders.
I thought the perfect time for that win came before the bye week when the Lions played the New England Patriots with Matt Patricia at the helm of that team's offense. Patricia was pubic enemy number one in Detroit and a loss to him seemed unforgivable. I really thought there would be a hard turn by Lions fans, but it didn’t really happen.
Things really started to turn coming out of the bye after the Lions dropped two bad losses back to back. Making things worse was the fact that the Lions blew halftime leads in both games. A win was needed now more than ever.
Facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers didn’t seem like the game to turn things around. Even if the Packers are having a rough season, you certainly weren’t at all out of line if you expected this to be their “get right” game. Detroit’s secondary had played irredeemable football up until Sunday, and Rodgers tends to feast on those, even in these troubled times.
That’s not what happened though. Instead the Lions put forth their best defensive effort of the season and arguably their best-coached game on their way to a 15-9 upset win. It’s a huge win. Not just because the Lions needed it, but because these are teams that Lions fans want to beat more than anyone else. This team has struggled in the division, and wins over the Packers carry extra weight.
Lions fans really want to see Aaron Rodgers have a bad day, and the Lions gave them that on Sunday. Rodgers completed just 53.5 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions in this Lions win.
What’s even bigger is that the Lions held their ground amid chaos, something we’re not used to seeing this team do. They turned the ball over on downs after trying to win the game on a fourth-and-3. This, of course, gave Aaron Rodgers and company good field position. Then there was the insane fumble play that would usually be the tease of a Lions win before a gut-wrenching, last-second loss. Don’t forget about the officials stopping the game to reset the play clock and taking a long time to do it. That essentially gave the Packers a timeout.
These are the kind of things that we have seen over and over again lead to a frustrating Lions loss., but through all of that distraction and chaos, the Lions did not waiver. They played great defense in the red zone and they forced the Packers to turn the ball over on downs. This is the 32nd ranked defense we’re talking about here. They don’t do that without good coaching. It’s really easy to get distracted by the chaos and make a mistake. We saw that against the Vikings earlier in the year. A good coach to keep you even keel can combat that.
Earlier in the season I said that the Lions were overcomers after weathering the storm against the Commanders. For a while, that seemed like the outlier, not the true identity of Detroit. But on Sunday that even-keeled team came back in the most important time. Hopefully this is a trait this team can continue to expand on as the season rolls on and as the rebuild rolls on. As Dan Campbell likes to say, the only way to learn how to win close games is to win close games.
There’s going to be more bumps along the road. The Lions will maybe find themselves in a situation where they need to get a win again to keep everyone from going crazy. At least now we know they can do it. More so, we know that Campbell can beat the Green Bay Packers and that’s just fine with me for now. I don’t know about you, but I’m re-energized at this point. I now look forward to seeing where this season goes from here.