(Note: I’ll be honest right away here, both because you deserve it and because I made a promise to a Make A Wish kid – I’m, uh, not at my best right now. My faculties have been clouded. Take that however you will. I should probably wait until tomorrow to write this, but to hell with that, I believe in unvarnished truths, just like my forefathers did. So if this is a piece of shit, well . . . at least you know why. By the way, I’ve had to correct, like, 14 typos in this first paragraph alone so this may be some slow going. I will try to pull my shit together, but if you need to splash water on my face at the halfway point and/or slap me back into consciousness, by all means, feel free.)
In retrospect, this game played out the only way that it could have. It felt like the last stand of the Failure Demons. I know, I know, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given that the Lions won the game, but hear me out. It was the sort of game where you could almost go down a checklist and mark off all of the things that usually go wrong for the Lions:
Shitty special teams play leading to a big return by the other team? Check.
Fluky Turnover which leads to disaster while Yakety Sax plays on an endless loop in everyone’s head? Check.
Matthew Stafford limping off the field? Check.
A rogue Failure Demon possessing first Stephen Peterman and then Gosder Cherilus and making them do strange and terrible things, much to the displeasure of the refs? Check.
Brandon Pettigrew dropping touchdown passes? Check.
Team tightening up with the lead and playing just to get the hell out of town while the other team stages a furious rally? Check.
Neil drowning in a giant oaken barrel filled with Wild Turkey and the tears of the damned? Check.
Despite all that, despite the Failure Demons rattling their chains like pissed off ghosts in heat, and despite the best efforts of the legions of hell – I mean, for fuck’s sake, even the weather was taking our dudes down like a master assassin – the Lions just went out and kicked the shit out of everyone, and in the end those pissed off ghosts were just that – ghosts – and their rattling chains were little more than a petty annoyance. They had no texture, no way to reach out, grab us and smother us with their stink. They just rattled those chains, popped out of the corners, yelled “Boo!” every once in a while and then we shrugged and told them to pipe down because we had shit to do.
We needed to see them. We needed to watch them pop up at random moments and we needed to face them down and let them know that we know that they can’t hurt us anymore. We’re all grown up, we’ve had this goddamn house exorcized, fumigated, inspected by at least three out of the four Ghostbusters (Venkman is such a flake) and whatever withered bullshit they have to show us just feels like a cheap parlor trick now. That shit’s for children. We’re all grown up and your bullshit games aren’t going to chase us out the door anymore.
With all that said, of course I was terrified. What are you, insane? I began nervously eyeing the little cabinet beneath my sink which houses my assortment of designer drain cleaners about the time I realized the Buccaneers had somehow managed to score more points than they had gained yards. Seriously, at the end of the first quarter the Buccaneers had gained only 4 yards yet had somehow scored 10 points. Meanwhile, the Lions had held the ball for roughly the length of the Pleistocene Age, had racked up enough yardage to build their own golf course and had managed a grand total of 6 points. While there were obviously reasons to be happy – happy may be an understatement actually – there was something haunting about the whole first quarter. It was just so quintessentially Lionsish, you know?
I know that’s a cheap thing to say and it veers dangerously close to the trite Same Ol’ Lions bullshit, but The Fear is a powerful thing, raw and terrible and when it comes for your soul there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. But thankfully, my hopeful side prevailed, the one that I’ve chosen to listen to since the last month of the 2010 season and it told me to chill the fuck out because the Lions were absolutely kicking the shit out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Indeed. It’s impossible to take away from the final score just how dominant the Lions were for most of that game. Matthew Stafford looked like he could have thrown for 500 yards and, shit, he might have had the Failure Demons not rigged the giant weather machine housed in a bunker beneath the Smoky Mountains to give Stafford heat cramps. (Also, I swear to God the following is true: I was so out of control during this game that at one point I screamed “Just give him a fucking Midol and get him back on the goddamn field.” I may or may not have threatened to fight Bobby Layne’s ghost immediately afterward.) I’m hoping that’s the only reason the Lions offense basically went into a shell in the third quarter up by only two scores, but that’s another topic for another day. On this day, I just want to celebrate the fact that my Detroit Lions looked like they were WORLDS better than a team that finished 10-6 last year and is one of the trendier picks to ride to the playoffs on a wave of good cheer this season.
Because, you know what? They totally were the better team, and it wasn’t even close. The offense moved the ball at will – at least until the aforementioned cramp induced turtling – and the defense beat the hell out of the Buccaneers sad little offense. Basically, under normal conditions, the Buccaneers failed to score a single point. I recognize that is making a feeble and ridiculous distinction, one that won’t hold up in a court of law or on the football field, but it’s true. Here’s how the Buccaneers scored their points: They returned a kick deep into Lions territory, gained a grand total of one measly yard and kicked a field goal (3); intercepted a tipped ball on a fucked up screen pass and jogged like degenerate assholes into the endzone (10); were basically gifted a field goal at the end of the first half when the Lions decided to play soft defensively and hope that time ran out on the Buccaneers and because some idiot decided to shout out fake signals during the initial field goal attempt, giving the Bucs another 15 yards and a much more makeable field goal attempt (13); and finally, they managed to score a touchdown late in the game after the Lions went into a prevent defense which is always a baffling and mind-numbingly frustrating decision (20). Even then, the Buccaneers only managed to score the one touchdown late even though the Lions basically spent the last 20 minutes of the game trying to moonwalk their way out of Tampa while they stared at the clock. Under normal conditions – without the Failure Demons possessing Matthew Stafford’s Holy Arm (and shoulder, but let’s not tempt the bastards) and with the Lions playing their normally aggressive style of defense – the Buccaneers managed something between jack and shit.
This was a statement game, and it was a statement to several different groups of people. On its most basic level, it was a statement to the rest of the football loving world, one which said that this team was for real and everyone still saying that nothing had really changed could kindly eat a bag of asshole sandwiches. (By the way, did anyone read Simmons’ NFL preview, in which he predicted that the Lions would finish 6-10, the same record that they finished with last year despite the fact that the offense was run by grit farmers and despite the fact that everything that could go wrong – from sea serpents eating Matthew Stafford to refs making up rules to Julian Peterson inexplicably beating the shit out of LaDanian Tomlinson to DID I MENTION THE OFFENSE BEING RUN BY DREW STANTON – did go wrong? Because what the fuck, Bill? What the fuck?) On another level, it was a statement to the Buccaneers and to the rest of the league, one that said that the Lions can roll into a contender’s house and mug the shit out of him while he and his family sob hysterically, tied up in the basement and begging for their lives. On yet another level, it was a statement that they made to all of us fans, one that said that even when things aren’t perfect, the Lions are good enough now to overcome that trifling shit and that it’s okay to finally – finally – believe. And last, but most importantly, it was a statement to the players themselves, to everyone who wears that uniform and has spent so long fighting off the vicious advances of the Failure Demons, a statement that said “Hey, you know what? We can do this shit.”
We’ve come so far to reach this point and in a way I’m glad that the game wasn’t perfect. This game needed to happen. The Lions needed to shit in their pants and roll around in it while we all gnashed our teeth and scared the shit out of our wives/children/pets/neighbors/live in prostitutes/ that guy living in the guest room who calls himself Tyler Durden with our barbarous hoots and grunts. We needed to see that and then see that, in the end, everything would be alright, that we would overcome, because this team is just too damn good to be dragged to hell by that trifling shit.
This was just one game, but it was a big one. People on the outside won’t understand that. They can’t understand that. But we understand that. I understand that for the first time since I started writing about the Lions here at Armchair Linebacker, the Lions are over .500. I understand that I felt confident heading into a road game against a team that went 10-6 last year. I understand that I absolutely felt like that confidence would be vindicated and that I said that shit over and over and over again whenever anybody asked me about it, including here on this blog. And I understand that, in the end, the Lions did what I wanted them to do. They won and they won convincingly and they looked for the first time in my life like a complete team, like a team that can beat any other team on any goddamn day. You may laugh at me for that, but to hell with you, I’m a Lions fan and I’ve earned this shit. I’m going to celebrate this win and I am going to blow it out of context because your context is irrelevant when it comes to the Lions. We exist in our own strange and fucked up world and in this world, the Lions are finally unbeaten and for today at least, we are all kings and lady kings, and the promise of tomorrow looks just as endless as the misery of yesterday. Finally.