Yours truly was saying it over and over last year to anybody that would listen. Few would. Most were too busy in their pursuit of unicorns, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and the fountain of youth to pay heed. And then there were the Detroit Lions' fans that thought their team was Super Bowl caliber. I kept trying to tell them all these things are only fantasies, but I was mocked and cast aside as their conversation turned to Atlantis, the Loch Ness monster, and Bigfoot.
So now I'll say it yet again. The Lions were vastly overrated last year. As they cruised along through a weak schedule to post a 10-6 record and qualify for the playoffs, they were finally exposed by the New Orleans Saints, which blew them out in that playoff game.
The Lions' fans saw a bright future. Their team would be even better this year. Yours truly saw a mirage, and another crash back to reality awaiting them this season.
Lions' fans whined earlier this season about if only a punt or kickoff return hadn't been returned for a touchdown here and there. If only head coach Jim Schwartz would haven't thrown that red flag when he already knew the rule, if only a pass hadn't been dropped, if only a fumble or interception didn't happen, if only their team hadn't committed a stupid penalty at a crucial moment in the game, if only the refs weren't all against them, if only this, and if only that. They could have been contenders. WRONG. They were never even close. More than anything, this year has exposed them even further for what they actually are. A mediocre at best team, that even when in a position to win -- will find a way to lose.
Earlier tonight, they played the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Lions hadn't won a road game against the Packers in 21 years. At that, the Packers likely played their worst half of football in recent memory during the first half against the Lions. The Lions had a 3-1 ratio in time of possession, had far more rushing and passing yards, and the Packers only had 16 offensive plays during the first half. The Cheesers were stinking it up -- bad. Yet at halftime, the Lions were ahead only 14-10.
Here's a guess at what was said by the head coach in the Packers' locker room at halftime. "Hey guys, that's the worst I've ever seen you play. The weather's terrible and we ought to be behind by a lot more than we are. But never forget, those are the Detroit Lions in the other locker room whooping it up right now. Just go out there and play hard for the second half, because those guys will find a way to lose. It's in their DNA. Trust me."
And that's pretty much how it went down. The Packers weren't spectacular in the second half, but the Lions only seem capable of playing one decent half of football per game this season. It's almost comical how some of their home town kool-aided reporters have said that in earlier games the Lions got off to a slow start and could never quite catch up. In other games, like this one, they've jumped out to a lead, but couldn't hold it. The Lions were oh-so-close, they continue to say.
What was typically Lionesque in tonight's game with the Packers was the last couple minutes. With no time-outs left, QB Matthew Stafford led his team down the field with crisp passes to put them in field goal position, with only a few seconds left in the game. Chalk up some more yardage for the modern version of the Georgia peach. Jason Hanson successfully kicked the field goal. The problem? They were behind by 10 points. It was sadly comical to watch it play out but, again, it's the Lions.
Hey, not all is lost for Lions' fans. Head coach Jim Schwartz is growing a mustache and goatee. If he got a few tats, piercings and some serious bling, the dude might even start to fit in with the team culture he seems to have created.
After so many expected the Lions to get even better after last season's 10-6 record, they are currently 4-9. The Arizona Cardinals, which just got absolutely trashed by the Seattle Seahawks to the tune of 58-0 are next on the Lions' schedule. If the Lions can't beat the Cardinals, then what would that say about them? But let's say they do. Then they come home to face the Atlanta Falcons. They'll be the underdogs in that game. In the finale, they get Da Bears at home. That's a toss-up.
But if the Lions continue their free-fall and somehow wind up 5-11, or even 4-12, than yours truly suspects Jim Schwartz might well find himself on the hot seat like a few other NFL coaches currently sit on. Last year he was a hero. This year he could turn out to be just another coach that's fired at the end of the season. Could happen.