That’s it. Stop the season. Somebody knock me out while these pictures are still fresh in my mind: Rodney Peete throwing touchdown bombs; the defense sacking the quarterback; a near-sellout crowd making airplane noise as the Lions dance on the Silverdome turf. Get a hammer. Hit me over the head. I want to sleep with this until next September.
“Aw, it’s just one win,” says the voice of reason. ‘=What about the Lions’ losing record? After all, this just makes five wins against nine losses.
“CAN’T HEAR YOU,” I say, my hands over my ears. “THE WATER’S RUNNING.”
Come on. Who wants to hear that stuff? We hear that stuff every week. Every month. Well, actually, every year. But who’s counting?
For once, let us feel like we live in a city with a good football team. And that sure looked like a good football team Sunday night. OK. So the Chicago Bears didn’t have a whole lot to lose. So they already had the division clinched. Don’t tell me they didn’t want to win. I mean, they were on national television, right? You think they want to get embarrassed like that? 38-21? Their mothers might be watching.
“One measly game, at the end of the season,” says the voice.
“CAN’T HEAR YOU,” I say. “VACUUM CLEANER.”
Sure it was one game. But it was the game that had been simmering inside the Lions for weeks and weeks. It was the game that was never finished against the Bucs, the Packers, the Redskins, the Bears two weeks ago — all those games that should have been won, but went bye-bye in the second half.
Not this time. This time, it was Ray Crockett charging quarterback Jim Harbaugh — who beat the Lions in overtime two weeks ago — and putting him out with a dislocated shoulder. It was Mike Cofer being no kinder to replacement Mike Tomczak, slamming the ball away, forcing a fumble, Lions recover. And it was Peete — in his best day in the NFL — going nuts, bombs away, a 20-yard touchdown to Robert Clark, a 44-yard touchdown to Richard Johnson, a 68-yard touchdown to Terry Greer. Four TDs? Three hundred and sixteen yards?
“But what about the interceptions?” says the voice.
“CAN’T HEAR YOU,” I say. “JACKHAMMERS.”
Sure, this wasn’t a perfect game. But does perfect really matter for the Lions at this point?
I say no. Far more important than perfection is victory — or learning how to win, even when you feel you may lose. The Lions were in that position Sunday night, third quarter, when Peete juggled the ball into Richard Dent’s hands and Dent lumbered all the way to the end zone. The score went from 21-7, Lions, to 21-14, Bears. Emotionally, Chicago had the edge. The Bears, who are used to winning, were vibrating with that old feeling. This game is ours. We can come back.
The Lions, meanwhile, seemed to sag under a familiar emotion. ” Uh-oh. We’re gonna blow another one.”
But then, something happened. “We all got together on the sidelines and said, ‘This is not gonna be another second-half fold job,’ ” Crockett said. And he made sure of it. On the Bears’ next possession, Crockett leveled Harbaugh and Chicago was forced to punt.
The feeling was infectious. Peete took a snap, looked downfield, saw Greer with a step on safety David Tate and let it fly. It fell in like a raindrop and Greer raced untouched across the stripe. And a game the Lions were ready to lose was in their back pocket. Safe and warm.
“So what?” says the voice of reason. “One lousy game.”
“CAN’T HEAR YOU,” I say. “BLOW DRYER.”
Now, OK. The Lions won a few games at the end of last year as well. And what good did it do? This season, at best, can only equal last season, record-wise, and until Detroit starts winning games that matter, these victories will be morsels from the NFL table.
But you gotta start somewhere. And it is the holiday season. So, in the spirit of Santa Claus, I am shutting my eyes, taking the hammer, and banging myself on the head. I don’t want to know about Green Bay next week or Seattle the week after. I don’t want to know about .500 records, or sub-. 500 records.
I want to meditate on those Peete passes Sunday night. And on Cofer and Crockett, doing the “gotcha” fist on the Chicago quarterbacks.
“You’re crazy,” says the voice. “When you wake, the same problems will be here. Quarterback controversy. Weak defense. Losing tradition.”
“What was the score?” I say.
“38-21.” “Good night.”