WHEN DID LIONS WIN BECOME THE NORM?

Jon Kitna walked into the postgame news conference and made a declaration.

“Last week,” he said, “was an aberration.”

He paused.

“Did I say that word right?”

Right word. Wrong week. Sunday was the aberration – at least around here.

Sunday was the win nobody expected this franchise to pull off. Sunday was a fourth quarter the likes of which no one has seen before.

Sunday was the aberration, because the Lions were staring into the abyss of a game they have played a million times before – blown chances, dumb mistakes, bad luck – and instead of caving in, they fought back. They fought every play and every way.

They had three points when the fourth quarter began. They had 37 when it ended.

And they won.

If that’s not an aberration, I’m Helen Mirren.

“That’s the NFL, it’s crazy,” Kitna said. “I mean, you’ll be on the sideline, and you look up and see scores from other games, and it’ll be … 10-3 … then you see the final score, and you’re like, ‘What happened?’ “

What happened?

You got an hour? The good, the bad and the crazy

What happened was bananas. This game was replays, reviews, more replays, more reviews, turnovers, sacks, fumbles, blocked field goals, blocked extra points, a kickoff and an onside kick returned for touchdowns.

It was Chicago coughing up five fumbles and never losing one. It was Detroit having a tight end run a kick into the end zone.

It was a record-setting fourth quarter that took an hour and nine minutes to play and saw 48 points posted: 34 for Detroit, 14 for Chicago.

“This game was probably like me,” coach Rod Marinelli said after the 37-27 marathon win. “Ugly.”

You know things are improving when Marinelli makes a joke.

And they are improving. Naysayers will point to the six sacks, two fumbles, blocked field goal try and dumb penalties the Lions allowed. But will you do the same to the Bears, the NFC champs? They imploded. Brian Griese got picked off three times and sacked six. Chicago had 14 penalties. And its famous defense couldn’t keep Kitna from hitting 20 of 24 passes.

The Lions have now come from behind in Oakland, won in overtime against Minnesota, and made history in outlasting the Bears.

“I think it says a lot about this team’s character,” said center Dominic Raiola.

I think … he has a point. Is it time to believe?

Now, there was plenty to scratch your head about. Like the fact that the Lions came out running and running, with little success, before finally turning to their well-oiled passing game to win the thing.

But admit it. You thought this was a pre-written script, the Lions missing chances early and often, twice getting within the Bears’ 12-yard line and not scoring a point.

But something kicked in late. Shaun McDonald caught a touchdown pass. Less than two minutes later, Keith Smith took an interception in for a score. About three minutes later, Troy Walters made a beautiful catch in the end zone. Less than seven minutes later, Kevin Jones scampered to pay dirt then ran to the stands and leaped into the crowd.

This is the guy who had been sidelined since last December with a serious foot injury? Leaping into the stands?

“I jumped off one foot,” Jones joked.

And the Lions have jumped off another. They are 3-1, with two division wins, and they showed that getting blown out in Philly last week wasn’t going to define them.

It was a wild game Sunday. You needed a road map, a compass and a GPS. But use those things to chart this team’s direction, and even the cynical can believe they are headed toward the light.

“I’ve got food waiting at my house,” Kitna said of the late finish. “I hope it’s not going to be ruined.”

Hey. Microwave it. After Sunday’s fourth quarter, fast heat should not be an alien concept. The Lions have now won as many games this season as they did all last year. Do you believe? Are you still a skeptic?

If last week was the aberration and this is the new norm, I’m bringing a pillow to the stadium.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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