The NFL season is nine weeks old, and the Detroit Lions have finally played a complete game — if you add up their eight so far, that is.
The Lions played thirty decent minutes yesterday in Chicago, which put them over the magical number of sixty for the season, which is what you need to play a complete game, sans overtime. They needed about 25 minutes going into yesterday’s contest, by my unofficial count, and so the first half against the Bears Sunday vaulted them over sixty for the season.
The Lions get zero credit for the second half — unless you want to put their futile, last-minute drive in their column. OK, what the heck, let’s do it. So the Lions played 31 decent minutes yesterday, in a 27-23 loss to the Bears. They remain winless — 0-and-8 in ’08.
The Bears used the other 29 indecent minutes by the Lions to win the ballgame, which is more than enough time, usually, to flick Detroit’s football team off your shoulder. But the Bears needed most of those 29 minutes, although if any of their fans were growing nervous at the end when Lions QB Dan Orlovsky was moving the team down the field, shame on them. Don’t they know that it will always end poorly for the Gridiron Heroes in Honolulu Blue and Silver?
Lions tight end Michael Gaines has now been officially christened. He’s a card-carrying member of the Lions forever. Orlovsky was putting together the assemblance of a threatening drive with a little over two minutes remaining, and hit Gaines with a pass in the flat. On first inspection, Gaines did the right thing: he moved forward conservatively, cradling the ball to his tummy and aiming to merely go down without anything bad happening — like a fumble.
But these are the Lions, and so something bad did happen — Gaines fumbled after being struck by Lance Briggs, who also recovered. The Lions got the ball back, but lost precious time and had to burn their last timeout on defense. The end result, despite the fairly impressive way Orlovsky moved the Lions from their own 12 to the Bears’ 32, was oh-so-predictable: a desperation lob for Calvin Johnson, or whichever Lion was closest, fell harmlessly to the turf.
This was the kind of game that strengthened your resolve about the Lions — that is, if your resolve is that they won’t win a game this season. My gut tells me that if the Lions are to win a game and avoid going 0-16, it will come in a stunning, I-never-saw-that coming fashion. Like maybe a fumble recovery returned for a TD or something like that. In 1977, the Lions stunned the Colts in Baltimore because Leonard Thompson blocked a punt late in the game and the Lions fell on it in the end zone to win. That may be the only way they can win.
They won’t win conventionally. Not that I thought they would win yesterday, even after jogging off the field with a 23-13 halftime lead and the Chicago crowd quiet, and the Bears’ starting QB lost to an injury. I never think the Lions are going to win. That’s why their victory, if it’s to come, is going to come unpredictably, before anyone has a chance to doubt it.
The Free Press’ Michael Rosenberg laughingly suggested that the Lions will have a “quarterback controversy” when free agent Daunte Culpepper arrives in Allen Park. Sorry, Rosey, but 0-8 teams don’t have QB controversies. 0-8 teams are so bad, have so many holes, that who quarterbacks them has little to do with wins and losses. Now, if Culpepper shows up with a new offensive line, some linebackers, a pass rush and a couple decent cover cornerbacks, then maybe he’ll have some influence on the won/lost record. But as it is, bringing in Culpepper on a one-year contract with a team option for a second year is simply to enable him to audition now for 2009. There’s no controversy in that. Look who his competition is. There’s no more of a QB controversy here than there would be a meal controversy if you went to your local diner and saw that the specials were a choice between steak and head cheese.
Orlovsky’s a nice kid who plays hard and fancies himself as a future leader of the Lions. That’s great — attitude is half the battle. But “Rudy” was a great story, too, but the little guy wasn’t going to win the Heisman Trophy, was he?
This is the NFL, not children’s story time. There are no “little red engines that could” in this league. If that was the case, guys like Ramzee Robinson would be leading the league in interceptions. And the Dan Orlovskys of the league would be the top-rated passers.
So no QB controversy here, Mr. Rosenberg — and anyone else who is foolish enough to suggest it (hello, talk radio and MLive.com forum boobs!). There’s nothing controversial about the winless. They’re not nearly good enough to rate that.