Detroit Lions now on wrong end of making too many mistakes

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

If you’ve gone to Detroit Lions games over the last 50 years, you’re used to fans heading for the exits even before the final whistle blows. Sunday afternoon at Ford Field was the opposite. The 2023 home opener was over, but thousands of fans still sat in their seats, not moving, as if needing to absorb the hurricane they just witnessed. Or maybe find an antacid.

You want front row? You got front row. You want a team with playoff expectations? You take an overtime loss hard. Especially when you think you have the game in hand, then it slips away, then you grab it back and tie it on the last play of regulation, then you lose a coin toss and watch fate run you over in overtime, and you never even touch the ball.

“THE CALL IS CONFIRMED. THE GAME IS OVER!” an official bellowed, after Seattle’s Tyler Lockett took a 6-yard pass from Geno Smith and dove into the orange pylon for the winning score in overtime, 37-31, letting the air out of Detroit’s shiny blue balloon.

With that, several things disappeared: a winning home opener, a chance to avenge the last five losses to Seattle, and, most notably, the inflated sense of power that had engorged our city the last 10 days, ever since the Lions smacked the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Opening Night, and we began chanting like banshees those two desperately longed-for words:

With that, several things disappeared: a winning home opener, a chance to avenge the last five losses to Seattle, and, most notably, the inflated sense of power that had engorged our city the last 10 days, ever since the Lions smacked the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Opening Night, and we began chanting like banshees those two desperately longed-for words:

“For real!”

Well. They are for real. Don’t doubt that. These Lions are a good team. But so are a lot of other franchises. On Sunday, the Seahawks did precisely what Detroit did in the season opener at Arrowhead Stadium. Came into a hostile environment, played their game, took the few mistakes the opponent made, and shoved a defeat into the gaping mouths of the fans.

Turnabout is fair play. Which is why a Seattle player named Jerrick Reed II was on social media after the game dancing in the Seahawks winning locker room with a blue ski mask on his head, mocking C.J. Gardner Johnson’s too-soon suggestion that Lions fans should wear those masks because everything is different now.

It’s Theater of the Absurd.

You want front row? You got front row.

Sometimes, the bounces don’t go your way

“I know it stings. Those guys are disappointed, I’m disappointed, the staff is,” said Dan Campbell after the loss. “But my gosh, man, this is good. We’ll get a little humble pie here.”

Ah, so that’s the foul taste in our mouths this morning. Humble pie. Well, many bites are admittedly hard to swallow — like another “Damn the torpedoes!” fourth-down Lions’ try by Campbell that was broken up by the Seahawks, leaving them just 45 yards from the end zone, which they quickly traveled for a fourth quarter lead.

Or a picture-perfect game by Jared Goff coming unraveled with eight minutes to go in regulation, on a pick-six interception that gave Seattle a 10-point lead.

Or a coin toss that bounced Seattle’s way to start overtime, and a nine-play, 75-yard winning drive that saw three first downs surrendered and two third downs converted. Fans can whine all they want about Aidan Hutchinson perhaps getting held on that winning touchdown pass to Lockett, but as Campbell said, “We should never be in that situation.”

The Lions have now lost the last six meetings to Pete Carroll and his blue and green band of merry men. Two seasons ago, Detroit surrendered 51 points. Last season, 48 points. This season, 37. That’s trending in the right direction. But it’s still too much to overcome, especially if you turn the ball over multiple times.

The Lions’ defense, much improved on paper from last year, couldn’t get the pressure on Smith that everyone anticipated, especially with Seattle missing a few starters on the offensive line. Detroit had one sack all day, albeit an impressive 17 yard-loss that ended with Alex Anzalone running a mile to plow Smith into the ground.

But that was the defense’s highlight. Hutchinson and the defensive line had no other sacks or quarterback hits. The Lions surrendered a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game and another one to end it. In between, they had some good moments, but short fields from a David Montgomery fumble and Campbell’s fourth down gamble were too much to overcome.

“We didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Hutchinson said.

Seattle did.

Like I said, other teams are good, too.

Things can go south quick

The shame of this is many things were swept away with the defeat, including a mammoth afternoon by Goff, who played about as well as a stationary quarterback can play in the NFL — for the first 52 minutes of the game. He was patient, precise and pinpoint accurate. At one point he was 11 of 12 with two touchdowns and 155.2 passer rating, which is almost as high as is humanly possible. He came into the fourth quarter without a stain on his pants or much sweat on his brow.

But like a cruise missile that gets pulled off course by a decoy, Goff’s masterpiece was suddenly derailed with just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. His best receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown, went out with an injury, as did offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Two plays later, Goff was swarmed and sacked for the first time all day.

And under pressure the next play, he threw behind rookie Jahmyr Gibbs and the ball was picked off and returned for a touchdown.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t go your way,” Goff said.

And sometimes, it goes all the way the opposite direction.

But the Lions came back. This was another thing buried by the “LIONS LOSE” headline. Goff and company overcame a 10-point deficit with two strong drives of their own. The latter saw them run the clock down until it was basically too late to do much beyond go for a tying field goal. You could argue this was smart because it kept Seattle from a last crack in regulation. You could argue it was foolish because the Lions’ defense wasn’t as good at stopping Seattle as its offense was at pushing them backwards. Perhaps a touchdown to win it was better than the tying strategy.

But Campbell played it the way he saw it, and you either trust the guy or you don’t. Had the Lions won the toss and driven downfield for a winning TD, he’d be brilliant this morning. Sometimes the difference between genius and goat is a bouncing coin.

“If there’s some magic world where we can take away the turnovers from today,” Goff said, summing up the afternoon, “I thought we played pretty well.”

Then again, in a magic world, you don’t lose fumbles, coin flips or games. And you don’t pay for your seats. In the real world, everything comes with a price. Which means sometimes you’re left sitting there after the final whistle, wondering “what just happened?”

You want front row? You got front row. The Lions are playing with real talent now, and real expectations. It’s big boy stuff. And in big boy battles, you’re gonna get bruised. They won a game they weren’t supposed to. They lost a game they weren’t supposed to. Let’s put the air back in this balloon and see where it flies next week.

But leave the ski masks at home, OK? We don’t need any more of those videos.

Contact Mitch Albom: Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at Follow him @mitchalbom.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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