Lions hope to finally end postseason drought Sunday
Eight thousand three hundred ninety-eight … and counting.
That’s how many days it’s been since the Detroit Lions won a playoff game.
You have to go all the way back to January 5, 1992, when the Lions pounded the Dallas Cowboys, 38-6, at the old Pontiac Silverdome.
Twenty-two years, 11 months and 28 days ago.
Quarterback Erik Kramer played arguably the best game of his career, completing 29-of-38 passes for 341 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Willie Green caught eight passes for 115 yards and two scores. Barry Sanders rushed for only 69 yards, but 47 came on a late touchdown.
Mel Jenkins got the rout started with a 41-yard interception return and Detroit’s defense contained Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, holding the Cowboys without a touchdown and forcing four turnovers.
If you remember all of that, you have a very good memory. It’s been a long time.
The Lions will try to finally end their postseason drought Sunday on the road against those same Cowboys in an opening-round matchup (4:40 p.m. on FOX).
Since the victory over Dallas nearly 23 years ago, the Lions have lost their last six playoff games:
The streak started on January 8, 1994 when a 24-year-old Brett Favre, in his second season with Green Bay, shocked the Lions, 28-24, with a game-winning, 40-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds remaining at the Silverdome.
From that moment on, it’s been a really bad run. The Lions went on to lose in the playoffs at Green Bay, 16-12, in December 1994; at Philadelphia, 58-37, in December 1995; at Tampa Bay, 20-10, in December 1997; at Washington, 27-13, in January 2000; and at New Orleans, 45-28, in January 2012.
What’s worse, the Lions have only that one playoff victory since winning the NFL championship back in 1957.
One playoff win in 20,830 days … or 57 years and 11 days.
Is this the year the bad nightmare ends for these incredibly starved, amazingly loyal but always skeptical Lions fans?
Nobody would like to be the one who delivers that to them more than coach Jim Caldwell.
He inherited a lot of baggage when he took over nearly 12 months ago. The Lions have continued to have their share of adversity this season, including some key injuries and even the stomping controversies of the last two weeks involving Ndamukong Suh and Dominic Raiola.
But here they are with 11 victories, a playoff invite and at least a puncher’s chance.
"I think this team in a number of respects is similar to what I think the city’s been going through," Caldwell said. "It’s had a tough time, had some difficulties, fighting its way out of bankruptcy.
"I think this team is the same thing. It’s had some issues, had been down really a tough stretch for a number of years and trying to battle their way out of it.
"I think the guys have taken that first step of getting in position to still be playing at this time of the year. That’s the first step.
"It’s not the ultimate step."
The ultimate step is to take the Lions to the Super Bowl for the first time ever, but that’s not the next step.
The next step is to finally win a playoff game.
Raiola has been around a long time, suffered through a lot of losing, including a winless season in 2008.
He knows exactly what a postseason run would mean to these fans and the city.
"That would be a big deal," Raiola said. "It’s a long time coming.
"We’re in the dance. We’ve got a shot. You can’t ask for more than a shot. We’ve got an opportunity just as good as anybody.
"I just think this team is hungry. The more shots people take at us, the stronger we get, the tougher we get."
Raiola was suspended for the final regular-season game for stepping on a Chicago player.
Suh was originally suspended for the playoff game following a similar incident last Sunday involving Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Fortunately for the Lions, the suspension was later rescinded following an appeal and reduced to a fine.
Raiola was seen earlier this week wearing one of the Detroit Pistons’ old "Bad Boys" T-shirts from the late 1980s, early 1990s, around the Lions’ locker room.
"I just had to remind people where the Bad Boys are from," Raiola said.
The Lions are basically viewed as the Bad Boys in the NFL, thanks in large part to Raiola and Suh.
They’ll likely have to overcome that reputation and clean up their act to have a chance to upset the Cowboys, who are 6 1/2-point favorites.
While the Lions have this wretched playoff history, there are a few individuals around who have been a part of a championship, including Caldwell.
One of the players who has been there is receiver Golden Tate. He played just last year for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
Tate is trying to spread some of that postseason knowledge throughout the Lions.
"We just need to be a little more mentally focused," Tate said. "We don’t need to change who we are."
Tate has told teammates that nothing else matters right now than this football game.
He urged them to "do a little more studying, go over your playbook one more time."
"You don’t want that one play that decides the game to be on you," Tate said.
The Lions, despite being a wildcard team without any chance of a home-field advantage, believe they have the talent to peak this month and end up in Arizona on February 1 playing for the championship.
"If you look back, we’re a dangerous team when everybody does their job consistently," Tate said. "We move the ball, but then you have that one guy that lets their assignment go and that kills the drive. We don’t need that in the postseason. We need everybody to be on their game.
"I’m not saying we need to play some spectacular, outrageous perfect game. We just need to go out there and play consistent, fundamental football."
And maybe, just maybe, they can put an end at long last to all of these playoff woes.