What a difference three weeks makes. I look back and wonder what I was thinking. On October 31, I said the Lions have no discipline. A week before that, I said they were on the clock for their quarterback of the future. A couple of weeks prior to that, I questioned if Dan Campbell was the right guy for this team, and in September I questioned Dan Campbell was capable of making decisions in big moments.
I guess you couldn’t have blamed me too much. The Detroit Lions were on a losing streak and it was frustrating to watch. Looking back on that losing streak, it really looks a whole lot different these days. If there’s one thing that I think about the Lions, it’s that they’re a very young team that isn’t ready to really contend for anything yet. So when you look at the current playoff standings and see that all six of the Lions’ losses were against teams that are currently in playoff spots, it doesn’t look so bad.
Keep in mind that beyond those horrible losses to the Patriots and Cowboys, the Lions lost all of their games by a touchdown or less. And even in that Dallas game, Detroit was in a position to take the lead in the fourth quarter had Jamaal Williams not fumbled at the goal line. A bounce here or there and we’re talking about how the Lions beat more playoff teams than just the Giants.
Not all of the possible overreactions have been negative. Early on in the season I hypothesized that the Lions were overcomers. At the time, the Lions were doing things that I had not previously seen them do. They were digging themselves out of holes they were put in by penalties. They were making comebacks despite being down, and they were responding positively after turnovers.
After the Lions’ three-game winning streak, I think I’m ready to say it’s not a hypothesis anymore. This is what the Lions are. They are, in fact, overcomers. Just look at everything they’ve overcome to get to this point.
Injuries have been beating this team all season. They’ve gone games without Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, D’Andre Swift, Tracy Walker and more. It has never truly taken this team down, and they have gone on to win games despite it. Even in their win over the Giants on Sunday, they lost multiple key players (Evan Brown, Jeff Okudah) and kept on trucking away en route to a big-time signature win.
A losing streak
It’s really easy to let a losing streak get you down. Look at what it did to the fans. Look what it’s doing to other teams in the league (Hi, Rams and Packers.). It’s easy to take all that and lose your confidence, your culture, and your will to fight. I can’t say that I saw any players on this team give up at any point. I can’t say that I saw a demeanor change either. This team went to the drawing board, and it made the changes that it needed to make in order to get things back together and go on a run. Now they’re firmly in the playoff hunt because of it.
Firing a coach
A winning streak will quickly make you forget that the Lions fired a coach just three weeks ago. Aubrey Pleasant was a coach that a lot of players on the roster liked and enjoyed playing for. It’s not crazy to think that when a team does something like that, there could be some backlash in the form of players tuning out the culture. That didn’t happen. The team remained on goal and they overcame the dismissal of Pleasant.
The usual things
The Lions have been winning, but they haven’t fully stopped committing some bad penalties or mistakes. These things are still happening. Even in the win over the Giants Sunday, the Lions had a really bad drive where Penei Sewell’s holding call wiped out a Jared Goff first down scramble and then immediately followed that up with a bad unnecessary roughness call on Jonah Jackson. The Lions went from having a first down in Giants territory to a fourth-and-34 from their own 18 on just two plays.
Instead of folding, the Lions defense went out and forced a Giants punt on the ensuing drive. Then two drives later they took the lead and never let it go.
They’re overcoming their mistakes on the field. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t remember a whole lot of that under Matt Patricia, Jim Caldwell or Jim Schwartz. Usually it was the opposite. These mistakes would compound and the Lions would never get out from under them more often than not.
I don’t know what the rest of the Lions season is going to look like. Right now they have a shot at making the playoffs. They very well may not make it in the end. But just like last season when the Lions showed us that they won’t stop fighting, I believe that they’ll keep showing us that they can keep overcoming.