Lions could have good 2011 season

Last Sunday the Detroit Lions lost to the Chicago Bears 24-20 in a game we have all seen many times before.
The Lions came out playing extremely hard in the first half controlling the game with their stout defensive line. Even with Kyle Vanden Boesch out and rookie of the century Ndamukong Suh drawing double and triple teams on every play (not to mention more than a few uncalled holds).

Cliff Avril had a monster game sacking Jay Cutler three times. Jahvid Best looked to have found his burst breaking off a 45-yard run before Drew Stanton hit Calvin Johnson who ran for a touchdown dropping a defender with a vicious stiff arm on his way to the end zone and a 17-14 halftime lead.

As the case has been all year, the Lions relinquished their lead in the second half falling to 2-10 on the season. Naturally, fans are upset and the local media will harp on about another second half collapse and, yes, another loss.

To them, I say get over it. Expectations for this team must be tempered. Sure, the Lions may only have two wins, but the team has been in almost every game and easily could’ve won half their losses. Considering this team has been without franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford and screwed by officials week after week, it’s completely ridiculous to evaluate this team by their record.

Here’s a brief history of the egregious calls that have gone against the Lions this year:
Week one at Chicago: Johnson’s game winning touchdown catch is inexplicably not allowed. Week nine vs. the Jets: Stephen Peterman is called for two phantom chop blocks that killed drives in the first half.

Week 11 at Dallas: Defense is called for horse collar twice when taking down running back Marion Barber by his hair.
Finally, against the Bears this week: Suh was flagged for merely tackling Jay Cutler. Head official Ed Hochuli claimed that Suh hit Cutler with his elbow while he was already going down.

Anyone who has seen the play one time knows that both of these claims are completely asinine. It’s hard to win in the NFL no matter what team you are. When you’re the Lions without Stafford, you need all the breaks you can get. The Lions aren’t 2-10 for lack of effort, talent or coaching, they just haven’t gotten any breaks.

Now, the call against Suh on Sunday wasn’t the reason they lost. Don’t get me wrong, the Bears were going to score on that drive regardless. Still, it doesn’t make it any less ridiculously unfair. My point is it doesn’t matter what this team’s record is. In fact, it benefits the team in the long term to lose out and receive a draft pick in the top five. Imagine how much better this team is going to look next year with a healthy Stafford and three draft picks in the top 80. Lions fans have waited over 50 years for this team to be good, what’s one more year really?

The fact that they’ve been in as many games as they have bodes well for the future as well. There are more than a few positives to take away from this Sunday. Linebacker DeAndre Levy had six tackles and in his second career start Drew Stanton didn’t embarrass himself during play. It was only his pathetic attempt at doing the “dougie” dance after his first quarter touchdown run that needed improvement. They don’t call him “Dancing Drew” for nothing, but he was outdone by Suh who paid homage to Michael Jackson by moonwalking on Tuesday morning’s Sports Center.

One thing that is clear—and head coach Jim Schwartz has said as much this week—this team will go as far as No. 9 will take it. As long as Stafford is out, it simply doesn’t matter if they win or lose. Don’t pay attention or feed into the narrative this is the same ‘ole Lions, it’s not. Barring a 2011 season lockout or another setback for Stafford (knock on freaking wood, seriously), they’ll have the chance to show us all what this team is really made of.

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