The Detroit Lions opened up the 2011 season with high expectations based on their nucleus of young playmakers – QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, and DT Ndamukong Suh. It also helped that they ended the 2010 season with a 4 game winning streak without their star quarterback. The Lions went into Raymond James stadium on Sunday with no fear despite just snapping their 26 road losing streak late last season. For once in the past 3 seasons, the Lions did not have to worry about stopping some sort of losing streak.
Right now, the Lions had that confidence presence not seen since the Barry Sanders days back in the 1990s. Stafford completed 24 of 33 passes, including TD throws of 36 and 1 yards to Johnson and 11 yards to TE Tony Scheffler, for 305 yards. The defense halted Tampa Bay’s ground game and forced Tampa Bay’s QB Josh Freeman into some quick throws. Freeman did not get comfortable until the 4th quarter when the Buccaneers were down by 2 scores.
Now, the Lions still made plenty of mistakes. Special teams gave up a 78 yard run that allowed Tampa Bay to kick a field goal and put up it’s first points. OT Gosder Cherilus’ personal foul that stopped the clock late in the 4th quarter and allowed the Bucs to get the ball. A running game that struggled at times with numerous negative running plays. When the Lions faced adversity in previous seasons, they responded with defeat. Sunday’s win demonstrated that the Lions are not going to let the little things bothered them as years past.
On the flip side, the Lions cannot get too excited about Sunday’s win. No one was expecting the Buccaneers to win their division or even go to the playoffs. Even Lions head coach Jim Schwartz blasted the Lions in the post-game press conference and carried over his frustration in his weekly presser because of their silly mistakes. It’s a long season and while playing well is one of the keys to get in the playoffs, the Lions need a little luck and their playmakers to remain healthy if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Looks like other people are beginning to notice the Lions. A major media outlet just released it’s weekly Power Rankings and had the Lions ranked #12. While being ranked #12 does not put the Lions in that elite group, it does show they have come along way since 2008 when they did not win a single game.
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Written by Bob Ballard