Written by: JT Bowen
In a shock to all outside of Detroit media, the Lions took the reigning MVP-led Chiefs to the brink this Sunday at Ford Field. The Chiefs, though missing Tyreek Hill and Damien Williams, entered as heavy favorites to win, and several national analysts predicted them to crush the puny, pretending Lions. However, in a game with major playoff implications down the road, the Lions came through in all facets of the game and showed their true colors as real contenders this year.
At the end of the day, a loss is a loss. Undoubtedly, in a stacked NFC North that early on has no clear favorite, this defeat will be a huge factor in determining the playoff race as the season progresses. Moreover, it was game the Lions truly should’ve won, as they largely played better football than Kansas City, and came down to a few critical errors. In spite of these mistakes (and a bit of questionable officiating, but more later), the Lions maintained a level head. After going down seven due to a 100-yard fumble recovery touchdown, a play that would normally deflate the Lions and silence Ford Field, the Lions persisted. Ford Field stayed loud and supportive of their team as the Lions marched back to a ten-point lead. The Lions are playing with confidence and swagger, something they’ve lacked for the better half of a century. They’re changing the narrative, pulling out gutty wins and competing with one of the most explosive teams in recent memory for four quarters. No second half collapse, or failed last minute comeback — the Lions played great football for the whole game.
I expected this. Despite my personal doubts as I watch the Lions commit stupid penalties or fumble the ball away in the red zone in two straight drives, I believe in this Lions team. After the opener in Arizona, I was extremely disappointed, but I maintained hope. I’ve truly come around to have faith in Matt Patricia and Co. after my uncertainty entering this year. I had no doubt Stafford would return to his top-10 QB status with a fresh scheme and new coordinator, and he’s done just that. Kerryon had his breakout game. The secondary balled out against the best quarterback in the NFL without Slay or Diggs. The receiving corps continues to impress me, as Kenny Golladay looks to be blossoming into a premier talent at the wide receiver position, and Marvin Jones is a great WR2. Special teams put together a reassuring game, temporarily squashing whispers of the need for new personnel. Lastly, the coaching and game planning was phenomenal. Like they did for the Rams last year, the Lions put together an in-depth guide on how to stop, or at least slow, the Chiefs high-octane offense, leaving Patrick Mahomes scoreless for just the third time as a starter.
You’ve probably read it somewhere already, but the Lions are for real. For the first time in forever, Detroit looks like a legitimate competitor in the NFC North. And with Green Bay’s defense returning to Earth after being gashed on the ground by Philadelphia, persisting questions at QB for Chicago, and the heavy reliance of Minnesota’s run-first offense being exposed by a good defense, the Lions look like (deep breath) the least flawed team in this division, something that has genuinely never been the case. That’s not to say they’re the best team, something that can’t reasonably be decided until the Lions face some divisional opponents, but the Lions have, thus far, exceeded expectations and battled with some of the finest teams in the league.
The Lions, though coming off a tough loss, hit the bye week at the best time possible. Many key players either sat out or played through injury this past week, and this break, although fleeting, should help them return to 100%. I would be surprised to not see Slay, Amendola, and Diggs play against Green Bay. Additionally, Da’Shawn Hand has a chance to make his season debut, and Mike Daniels will gain some much-needed recovery time during the break. Patricia has an extended window to gameplan for a difficult, bitter rivalry game in Lambeau.
Detroit came into Week 4 with a plethora of questions and even more naysayers. But after an impressive performance, even in defeat, the Lions showed they’re not phonies, and have a real, tangible shot at winning this division. The offense is balanced, the defense is stingy, and the coaching is solid. The pass rush will come along, especially with the impending return of Hand and Daniels, and the o-line, despite a rough outing in pass protection, will improve. This team is not the Same Old Lions, and although I’m hesitant to say a Super Bowl or even playoff game-winning capable, has an immense amount of talent and has the tools to win the NFC North.