A day after blowing a late lead to Green Bay, three days before celebrating Thanksgiving, the Detroit Lions need to put their frustrations aside and think about all there is to be grateful for despite their 4-6 record.
A few suggestions:
1. Gary Bettman isn’t their commissioner.
2. Donald Fehr isn’t executive director of their Players Association.
3. They aren’t 0-10, on the verge of going 0-16 (been there, done that).
4. Nickelback isn’t the halftime show.
5. CBS is televising Thursday’s game against Houston, and Matt Millen doesn’t work for CBS.
6. Neither does Mike Martz.
7. No marijuana busts since the season started.
8. The web-hit whores have run out of anonymous general managers to quote.
9. Martin Mayhew scouted and found the “best available” turkey for the postgame dinner.
10. They could be the Eagles.
These reeling Lions, of course, aren’t in the mood to feel so grateful, not after losing two straight. The Packers rallied Sunday in the final minutes for a 24-20 victory that did severe damage to Detroit’s hopes of getting back in the playoff race.
With six weeks to go, three teams — Seattle, Tampa Bay and Minnesota (all 6-4) — are tied for the final NFC wild-card berth.
Then there’s New Orleans and Dallas at 5-5, followed by Detroit, Washington and Arizona.
What’s worse than being two games behind with six to play is that the Lions have to catch or pass five teams in the process.
“We’ve got six long weeks left,” linebacker DeAndre Levy said. “It’s easy to start pointing fingers, getting divided, but we’ve got to stick together and battle.
“We’ve just got to finish the season the right way.”
The Lions have little time to regroup. The 9-1 Houston Texans, one of the league’s top Super Bowl contenders, come to town for Thursday’s nationally televised game. If the Lions don’t bounce back fast, they will be embarrassed badly again on Thanksgiving.
Detroit has lost the last eight Turkey Day games by an average of 21.5 points. The worst rout in the streak came four years ago, a 47-10 loss to Tennessee. No game has been closer than an 11-point margin.
The last Thanksgiving victory was way back in 2003 against Green Bay. Matthew Stafford was a sophomore in high school at the time.
If the Lions don’t rally and give a strong performance in this one, you know what’s going to be said nationally — that last year’s 10-6 playoff run was a total fluke.
“We can’t pay attention to what anybody says,” linebacker Justin Durant said. “We just have to go out and play.
“I think our team is strong enough mentally to come in and put it behind us and move on.”
Although there was high hope around Detroit for this team’s chances of getting back to the playoffs — maybe even some Super Bowl dreams — the fact that the Lions have taken a step back isn’t unusual in the NFL.
There’s a clear trend in recent years, when teams that made a big move up to get to 10 victories regressed the following season, just as the Lions are doing.
Tampa Bay went from three wins in 2009, up to 10 in 2010 and back down to four in 2011. Now the Buccaneers are in playoff contention again.
Detroit went from 0-16 in 2008, to 2-14 in Jim Schwartz’s first year as coach in 2009, to 6-10 to 2010 and then broke through to make the playoffs in 2011.
It shows what a fine line there is between winning and losing in a league that’s geared toward parity.
The Lions haven’t been eliminated yet from playoff consideration, but it’s almost to the point where they’d have to win out.
That’s not going to happen, not with the schedule, not with a defense that could collapse at any moment, not with an offense that continues to underachieve despite racking up yardage at times.
Perhaps, Lions fans, it’s time to just be grateful that the special teams haven’t given up any touchdowns in well over a month.