Quick, drag out the old sports cliches.
There’s no tomorrow. It’ll be a playoff-like atmosphere. We control our own destiny. This is why you play football.
For the Lions, this really is a biggie, cliches be damned.
Tonight, the boys in Honolulu Blue and Silver have a chance to shove all that “Same old Lions” stuff up our rear ends.
The Lions are playing a game on Monday Night Football tonight, and if there was a Lions game on MNF this late in the season that meant this much, then it’s stashed away in the broadcasting archives somewhere.
This isn’t a mid-October game. It’s not a game where the Lions’ season has long been over, as many MNF games involving Detroit in the past have been.
This is big time stuff. First place on the line. Win and live to fight another week. Lose and maybe start to make plans in January that don’t involve football.
The Lions haven’t been in this position very often in their inglorious past.
In fact, you have to go back 30 years to find a anything similar.
It was a MNF game on a snowy December night in 1983, with the Minnesota Vikings invading the Silverdome in Pontiac.
The Lions were on a charge after starting the season 1-4. In fact, after that fourth loss in Anaheim, coach Monte Clark stood before the media and said, in that raspy voice, “See you guys at the cemetery.”
Monte thought he was going to get the ziggy after a disappointing start to a season that many had high hopes for.
But the Lions righted the ship and went into the Vikings game with a 7-6 record. The Vikings were 7-6 as well.
Sound familiar yet?
Detroit stifled Minnesota, 13-2, and took sole ownership of first place in the NFC Central, eventually winning the title with a 9-7 record.
Then it was on to San Francisco and Eddie Murray’s famous wide right kick in the playoffs.
Thirty years ago, on December 5, 1983.
That was the last time the Lions played in prime time in a game that carried as much weight as tonight’s “must win” contest does against the Ravens.
We’ll see how the Lions respond. It’s a response that I, frankly, can’t wait to see.
Which, of course, isn’t the same thing as saying that I plan on being happy with the response. These are the Lions, after all.
I don’t do predictions, as a rule, but I have one for you today.
I think the Lions will ravage the Ravens tonight. I do.
I think the boys in blue and silver are going to make mincemeat of Baltimore. Yeah, I know the Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champs.
But my premonition has little to do with how good I think the Lions are. Rather, it’s more about what the Lions do to their fans.
You see, the Lions were teetering on Thanksgiving Day, four days removed from a horrific loss to the God-awful Tampa Bay Bucs. The Green Bay Packers, trying like mad to stay in the playoff picture without QB Aaron Rodgers, were in town. The Lions hadn’t won on Turkey Day since 2003.
Detroit won, 40-10.
Hopes were lifted.
The following week, on a snow-covered field in Philadelphia, the Lions collapsed in the second half like a house of cards and lost to the Eagles.
Hello, angst—we barely missed you.
So I figure it stands to reason that the Lions will destroy the Ravens tonight, produce more goodwill, and then stumble and lose to the New York Football Giants next Sunday.
It stands to reason.
But regardless of what I think will happen, what is indisputable is this.
The Lions have a chance, for one night anyway, to flip everyone the bird who thinks they can’t play under pressure. They can quiet some of that “same old Lions” stuff, at least temporarily.
But don’t you see? The Lions, under coach Jim Schwartz, always play better, it seems, when they have a gun held to their head. Not so much when that gun has been lowered. In fact, it is lowered and then promptly aimed at their own feet.
So it stands to reason that the Lions will play a great game before what should be a raucous Ford Field crowd decked in blue.
It also stands to reason that, once the gun is lowered a bit after the win over Baltimore, the Lions will drive everyone’s blood pressure back up after what will likely be an odd, head-scratching loss to the horrible Giants.
Which means that the Lions will go into Minnesota with an 8-7 record and likely needing help in addition to a win over the Vikings, to sneak into the playoffs.
As Jethro Tull said, “Nothing is easy.”