No one has accused the Lions of being a first half team this season. They have trailed at halftime in eight of their first nine games. With that in mind, one can only hope that the Lions will be a strong second half (of the season!) team.
As noted previously, the Lions will be spending the holiday months largely at home with five of their final seven games at Ford Field. But the NFL has ruled that the Lions cannot play the Jaguars every week (which is really too bad). Ford Field will host some playoff caliber teams over the next two months – the Packers, Texans, Colts, Falcons and Bears. Each team would make the playoffs if they started today – including the surprising Colts.
Can the tenants of Ford Field – in this case the Lions – join these teams in January? Recall a few weeks ago that I said that the Lions must beat the Seahawks and Jaguars to reach the 4-4 mark at the midway point. They did. But that was needed just to get their heads above water. The Vikings loss this past weekend might have doomed any remaining playoff hopes.
The former NFL head coach Bill Parcells once said that his team was what their record said they were. In other words, we could play the shoulda, woulda, coulda game all day long but the Lions are 4-5 and only as good as that record says they are. Sure, the Lions are ranked in the top ten in offense and defense – rankings that should forecast success in the NFL. But the San Diego Chargers shared the same distinction in recent years without making the playoffs.
Do the Lions have the talent to make the playoffs? I think that they do. Are there holes to fill on the roster this off-season? Every team will have some holes to fill. The immediate, urgent question is can this year’s team rebound to make the playoffs this year?
Offensively the Lions can hang with anybody – but they must start faster in these games. It is hard to ask any more out of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson than what they produced against the Vikings (turnovers aside). Against the Jaguars, the Lions found their running game using Riley Reiff as a sixth offensive lineman on many plays. The offense needs to have a greater sense of urgency earlier in games, which I believe will create a better balance between run and pass later in games.
The defense held up ok in the first half against the Vikings, holding them mostly to field goals. The second half was another story as Adrian Peterson was able to run to the outside for long touchdowns. The Lions need Louis Delmas back from injury at safety – that would help against the run and the pass.
As a young adult, I started watching the Lions during their playoff year of 1991. After a disappointing 1992 season, the Lions became known as a second half (of the season) team under head coach Wayne Fontes from 1993-1995. Each year they would start off bad only to rally in the final games to make the playoffs – and presumably to save Fontes’ job.
By the 1996 season – another bad start – fans just assumed that the Lions would make another rally. Alas, it was not meant to be – the Lions missed the playoffs and Fontes lost his job. But as a fan I enjoyed watching those teams come together and make a run in the final month. Those teams could beat anybody – including Super Bowl contenders – but the seasons were also defined by the early struggles where they could lose to anybody.
If this year’s team is going to make a magical run, it starts over the next two weeks with the Packers and Texans (on Thanksgiving) at home. If the Lions can win even one of those games and get healthier during the post-Thanksgiving layoff they may have a shot. Recall that the last two Super Bowl champions were 7-7 (Giants) and 8-6 (Packers) heading into their final games. Teams with talent can get hot when it matters most – just look at the Tigers.
I will be attending the Packers game this weekend with my family hoping for a great effort and perhaps a little Fontes magic.
I have been a die hard Lions fan since 1991. I played football in high school and began a college playing career at Wayne State before hanging up the cleats. I will try to provide a perspective on my favorite NFL team as the season progresses for the Patch.