By the time most Lions fans were sitting down for lunch, or if they lived in other parts of the country perhaps breakfast, we were going to know where the Lions sat at the halfway point of the season. They were playing in London, taking on the Atlanta Falcons, hoping to secure their sixth win of the season. They would be very much shorthanded. Calvin Johnson was unable to play, as was Reggie Bush and seemingly everybody who has ever even thought about playing tight end for Detroit. Could they do enough on offense? Or would the defense have to carry the day once again?
The Falcons struck first, with Matt Ryan hitting Devonta Freeman for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Later in the first quarter they scored again as Bear Pascoe caught a 1-yard touchdown. Things are not going well when Bear Pascoe scores against you. To add insult to that injury, Steven Jackson even scored before halftime. The Lions were down 21-0 at the half. London fans were probably expecting a blowout, and Detroit fans were probably lamenting their defense suddenly no longer being beastly and their offense continuing to be problematic. This was even more true considering that Nick Fairley left the game with an injury. It was all just too much for the Lions to bear (Pascoe) it seemed.
The Lions finally got on the board with a Matt Prater field goal, which they then followed with a 59-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate. Where would this offense be without Tate? Perhaps just going backward on every play? At least they had something going. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, they added another field goal to make it a one score game. That score stayed for a while, before Stafford hit Theo Riddick for a 5-yard touchdown. Alas, the two-point conversion was not completed, leaving the Lions down by two. That seemed to all but wrap it up… but it didn’t! The Lions got the ball again, and made their drive down the field. A penalty helped keep them going. Then a penalty would save them, but it would be their own penalty. Prater attempted a 43-yard field goal, but missed. Classic Lions kicking. Or, at least, current Lions kicking. Ah, but thanks to a delay of game penalty, they got another chance, albeit from 48 yards out. However, Prater was able to convert it, and the Lions earned the 22-21 win.
What a win. What a bizarre, wild win. It was looking like the Lions were going to suffer a disappointing loss that would leave them fighting from behind in the playoff hunt. Then, like last week, they pull it off. In the past, even last season, Detroit was the team that tended to lose these games. Now, they’ve won two (and lost one to the Bills, but that goes against this narrative). It doesn’t mean anything really. It’s not momentum or good vibrations or anything like that. It’s just that sports are funny, and luck and random chance are fickle, and for at least a couple weeks, things have been on Detroit’s side. Credit to them for pulling it off, of course. The players on the field had to do their part, and they did, including Prater, who made all three of his field goal attempts.
Stafford didn’t play great. He did throw for 325 yards, but that was on 24-for-47 passing, and he had a pick to go with his two touchdowns. However, the throw to Tate, who had seven catches for 151 yards and who is awesome, was impressive. While Joique Bell didn’t do well, Riddick had a big game through the air. The offensive line didn’t let up a sack. The defense wasn’t great, but they were good, and they had a couple sacks and an interception.
Now, the Lions head into their bye with a 6-2 record, keeping them in the race in an intense, competitive NFC. It seemed like they were going to lose big this week. Then, it seemed like they were going to lose competitively. Then, lose heartbreakingly. Then they just went ahead and won. Football is a funny old game.