Each and every year, America turns its attention to Ford Field for a football game. Most years, all eyes seem to be on Ford Field only once. Ndamukong Suh is making it his personal mission to keep the attention here for a few more days at least. The Lions, however, as odd as it may be for those of us who have never seen them win a Super Bowl (oh wait, that's everyone), have been surprisingly relevant for the better portion of a year and a half. A trip to the playoffs last year, albeit a brief one, has had fans at least waiting three quarters until they turn the game off this year. Yet yesterday, everybody stuck around for the end, because the other option was helping mom prepare dinner; thanks, but I'll pass.
|Jim Schwartz photo credit: boston.com|
Thanksgiving football has been disappointing Lions' fans for a decade now. I actually got a text from a friend of mine yesterday who said to me, "hope the Lions didn't ruin (Thanksgiving) too bad for you." And as only a Lions' fan knows, I responded by saying something along the lines of I'm used to it by now. How can you not be? Think about the last time the Lions won on Thanksgiving: Brett Favre was still a Packer, many Americans still liked George W. Bush, and Michael Jackson was last seen dangling his child off of a balcony. Ah, how the world has changed since then. Well, mostly changed at least. Still, no one cares about the NBA regular season.
They didn't have to lose yesterday though. No, yesterday they could have won one for a change. Chances squandered, coaches criticized, and referees blamed took the headlines this morning, in turn condensing the Lions I have known for my whole life into one singular game. You can say what you want, but that's how it's gone for you too. Whether it's been Greg Landry or Matt Stafford throwing it, Herman Moore or Calvin Johnson catching it, even Mel Farr or Barry Sanders running it, the Lions haven't won anything since radio trumped television. I, like most fans, probably would have ignored that thought with a win yesterday.
Before we get to the bad, let's get to the good. Matt Stafford was good. He wasn't great, but he threw for 441 yards. If you've lived through Dan Orlovsky (and if you know how to read, you have), then you'll take 441 yards six times a week, and about 1000 times on Sunday. Calvin Johnson was Calvin Johnson. And because Ryan Broyles has proven that maybe he wasn't that bad of a draft pick after all, Billy Ford can basically send Titus Young (Sr. of course) a holiday card with the note saying, "Great talk, Titus. See ya out there." I wouldn't feel right giving credit to anyone without giving credit to Riley Reiff, either. His name was called maybe twice during the CBS telecast? Twice for an offensive lineman for one game equals Pro Bowl. He was very good containing the right side of the Houston defense, a task that probably made you as nervous as I prior to the kick-off.
Now the bad. Let's start (because it's the only time I'm going to mention them) with the officials. I thought the officials were really not that bad. Yes they made a GLARING mistake. It was awful. Stevie Wonder could have told you that Justin Forsett was down. That was a horrendous call. Yet, at full speed, it's easy to miss something that seems so obvious afterwards. Ask Jim Joyce. The officials didn't lose the game for the Lions.
Jim Schwartz...EPIC fail. And I do mean epic. With Roger Goodell at the helm, it seems like each and every week there is a rule coming into play, or something completely random that ends up as the lead story on Sportscenter (until, of course, the next week when a different rule takes its place). Never fear sports fans; you can expect ESPN to be ALL over this one. I've made a pact with my dog to not turn on Sportscenter until something else major happens in the sports world. However, stupid as the rules may seem, as the age old adage goes, rules are rules. Job number one for a head coach: know the rules. Before you hire your staff, before you draft players, before you deposit your paycheck, know the damn rules. Schwartz does not deserve most of the criticism he normally gets; I'm a firm believer that every coach in the NFL prepares their team to win, and players play. Not this time though. As you saw on the sideline after "challenge-gate" (might as well get ready for that), Schwartz was quick to point out that the mistake was on him. He gets credit for that. He gets credit for nothing else. Sure, they had chances after that. Bringing that right foot back into play, had you told me Jason Hanson would have a field goal from under fifty yards to win it, I would have said our chances are as golden as the ticket to Wonka land. But he missed. And it doesn't matter. It should never have gotten to that. Go ahead and say, "They had their chances to win and they missed on their chances." No one will argue with you, because you are right. They did have their chances. But this is the Lions. When have they made good on their chances? Ever (one little trip to the playoffs does not count--no one plays to finish anything but first).
It was as entertaining as any Lions game I've seen in a while. Now, is it possible that Houston may still have gone down the field and scored, even if Forsett is ruled down? Yes, entirely possible. But we'll never know. Too hard to tell, really. The Lions defense seems to be more hot and cold than Katy Perry (oh yeah, you bet your butt I was excited to get that one in there). But this one is on Schwartz. You HAVE to know the rules. Period. Looking at the facts of the game, if Jim Schwartz doesn't throw that challenge flag, the Lions win, and in doing so excite an entire city and fan base. Instead, Thanksgiving in Lions world might as well be called Black Thursday.