Mason Crosby couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. The accomplished Green Bay kicker missed four field goals and an extra point, leaving 13 points on the table. The Packers fumbled three times and couldn’t hop on a single one of them. So the Detroit Lions had some major help from the opposition in Sunday’s 31-23 victory. It was one of those rare cases where the tired sports-shouting debate over “did team X win or did team Y lose” may actually be relevant.
That’s not to say the home team didn’t play exceedingly well. Kerryon Johnson rushed for 70 yards on 12 carries. Matthew Stafford threw for two scores and now has a 9-1 TD-INT ratio since a disastrous Week 1. Kenny Golladay showed the talent that will make him a perennial Pro Bowler. And the defense, though broken through bending a few times, was entirely opportunistic.
For the second time in three weeks, the seemingly hapless Lions looked like an above-average, dare we say playoff-caliber team. A trouncing of New England. A first-half boat racing of the Packers. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers walked into Ford Field and left disappointed.
As a reminder: Sam Darnold walked in for his first pro start and led his team to a 48-17 victory. As a reminder: Matt Patricia’s team slept through the first three quarters in San Francisco and couldn’t get key stops against Dallas.
Detroit has handily vanquished their two best opponents. The other three have gotten the better of the mercurial boys in Honolulu blue. Is there any figuring this team out? Does anyone feel confident what the future holds? Is this a team that will compete in the NFC North or will it go 5-11? Either outcomes feels equally likely.
Going 4-2 in the division is a must. A 5-1 run, coupled with prevailing in winnable games against Arizona, Seattle and Buffalo might be enough to do it. The problem? Minnesota, Chicago, and Green Bay are probably all better than Detroit. Or maybe that’s a good problem, considering early evidence.
No one knows. That’s the aggravating, perplexing thing about these Lions. The highs are very high. The lows very low. Perhaps the best thing to do is strap in and enjoy the ride without care.
It will promises to be unpredictable, and may be just enough right to bring meaningful December-January football.