It was like getting the bicycle you always wanted for Christmas – when you turned 50. Like swishing a half-court shot in garbage time. In this town, you never want to knock a Lions victory, because you’re not sure you will live long enough to see another. But Sunday’s 25-20 come-from-ahead squeaker was like bursting a piñata and seeing vegetables fall out.
The victory over Kansas City makes Detroit 7-8. Just good enough to be mediocre. Just bad enough to miss the playoffs – after starting 6-2.
“We set our goals high, we didn’t reach them,” admitted defensive lineman Cory Redding, “but that don’t mean we have to go out and play some flop game.”
Then again, this was hardly a classic. The Lions, a team that hadn’t won in seven weeks, beat the Chiefs, a team that hadn’t won in nine. That’s a little like getting a diploma from the Institute of Driving Training. It counts, but I’m not sure you want to frame it.
Here are some good things we can say about the Lions’ victory Sunday afternoon:
1. They didn’t blow a 19-0 lead.
2. T.J. Duckett broke 100 yards rushing.
3. Shaun Rogers is apparently still a Lion.
4. The game is over, so they can’t pick on Dovonte Edwards anymore.
5. Jason Hanson.
6. Paris Lenon had a 61-yard pick return.
7. The Lions’ home record is 5-3.
8. Jessica Simpson was in the press box.
I made that last one up, to see how much you cared. The mantra for Lions fans
Because let’s face it. If there was ever such a thing as a Pyrrhic victory, this was it. By the time the final field goal went through the uprights, there were 43 seconds on the clock and not many more fans than that in the stands. The Lions, against one of the lousier teams in the NFL, still had to struggle to win, at home, against backup running backs and a backup quarterback. They gave up one touchdown with 12 men on the field and another to a defensive lineman masquerading as a tight end. And they watched the Chiefs race to within 30 yards of the end zone on a final gimmick play before the ballcarrier inexplicably dove to the ground.
Perhaps he was feeling the collective karma of Detroit, which could be summed up in the words of boxer Roberto Duran: “No Mas.”
No Mas of these too-little-too-late victories. No Mas of these high hopes turned low expectations. Rod Marinelli is as earnest a coach as God ever put on Earth, and there are no minutes to spare in his workload, but he’s the first to admit, as he did Sunday, “It’s not good enough.”
And it isn’t. Sorry to the Lions who tried so hard to win this home finale, but winning when it doesn’t matter doesn’t matter. The Lions had six chances to make a playoffs, to end a skid, to upset teams or to win when favored, and they blew all six. Winning the seventh time out is like taking the girl of your dreams to dinner – with her husband. The final numbers don’t lie
So it was nice of Rogers to nab two sacks, but honestly, catching Damon Huard, who is 34-going-on-crawling, ain’t quite like yanking down Tom Brady. Besides, Rogers doing this now, after basically disappearing the last six games, is almost worse than doing nothing. His inconsistency and long absences from play are simply not worth it anymore. The Lions should dump him and his big salary and cut their losses. Why worry if he turns it on with another team? He isn’t going to do it here. He’s proven that. And this brilliant offense of Mike Martz’s? You tell me. The defensive backs? Please.
Time to move on.
Yes, the Lions have a final game next week, in Green Bay, but who besides them cares? If they go 8-8 – and Jon Kitna has talked about this being a goal – that’s fine for the history books, but it won’t reflect the season. There are 8-8 records and there are 8-8 records. This season always will be a 6-2 record that resulted in staying home in January.
The rest is just digits.
“We played hard, I thought, against Dallas, and we came up short,” Marinelli said. “The Giants we played hard, but then we go on the road and we had our failures. So we’re still too inconsistent.”
And until that changes, late-season wins will taste like stale cookies. And a .500 record feels like Santa Claus without his bag of presents.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).