Monday, October 09, 2006

Lions Blow Another, But Is It A Surprise?

I wish I could soothe the angst of other NFL team's fans. I wish I could rock them gently in my arms and say in a hushed tone, "'ll be're playing the Lions."

As much as I absolutely HATE the Minnesota Vikings -- more than any other professional sports franchise, by the way -- I had the same desire to calm their fans in the wake of the Lions' taking a 17-3 lead into the fourth quarter of their game against the Vikings yesterday in the HHH Metrodome. (The "H's" stand for Horrible, Horrendous, and Hideous, by the way).

Don't worry, I wanted to tell them. The Lions will find a way to give your team this game. And when they did -- the only fun is waiting to find out how they're going to give it away -- it bothered me about as much as it does when we're out of beer at home. A little disappointing, but expected. I likes my beer.

Anyhow, the Lions forged their nice little lead, and then all there was to do was settle back and watch how they were going to fritter it away. It didn't take long to find out.

First possession after the Lions' final touchdown. The crowd was out of the game -- cranky, even. It was a Sunday on which the NFL teams who know how to win, and even the ones who don't do it all that well, would go for the jugular and smell blood. But the Lions continue to have this amazing proclivity to remove their cleats from their opponents' throats, while at the same time tightening the collars around their own.

So, let's see...well, there's Shaun Rogers getting flagged for a personal foul. Tack on 15 yards to the Vikings play. Now they have the ball beyond midfield. The crowd stirs. The drive continues, and as the third quarter ends, the Vikings are knocking on the Lions' door. As usual, it's unlocked.

Brother, I wanna help you, but...

So it's 17-10 early in the fourth quarter. Let's see what else we have on the menu...well, there's an Eddie Drummond kickoff return for a TD that's coming back. Illegal block above the waist. Drat. Oh, well. Let's put some first downs together, chew up some clock, and maybe get some more points, too. That's how you win, right, when you have a fourth quarter lead?


What else we got? Oh, look -- Jon Kitna fumbles, and it's a touchdown for the Vikings. Extra point's blocked, so it's 17-16. Lions still lead, amazingly. Vikings fans, though, hardly need my comfort at this point.

Do teams with winning in their blood, or even scabbing on their knee, go three and out and give the ball right back, momentum totally lost? No, but the Lions do, and did.

Field goal, Vikes. They lead 19 to 17. The denizens have now forgotten about the Twins' demise. With no help from me, as it turned out. My words of calm are not needed.

OK, so there's still about three minutes to go. A field goal puts the Lions back on top. They make it to midfield. The teams who at least have "Winning" in their Rolodex, even if it's not frequently dialed, can make the necessary 20 or 25 yards to get themselves into field goal range, right?


The offensive line is on casters, and the Vikings roll them back with all the ease of moving a stool. Kitna is harrassed, as usual, and has to do everything under duress. Three incomplete passes ensue. Fourth and ten. The Vikings rush three men, but it doesn't matter. Kitna is running for dear life. Nobody's open. Az Hakim is on his tush, knocked down like an eight-year-old after a legal chuck by Antoine Winfield. Nowhere to throw the ball, except to the Vikings, which Kitna does generously. TD Vikings.

The Lions once again prove that they could be one of the best teams in the NFL, if only the games were 45 minutes long.

I just don't know what to do with these guys. They simply do not know how to win. They have no clue what to do with a lead, even a 14-pointer. It's a mindset. They're a bunch of losers who have no idea what it takes to win football games. When you have a team down, 17-3 on the road, and the crowd is out of it and even booing the home squad, it's a game for the taking. Those kinds of chances to snatch a game on the road don't come along every week in the NFL. But the Lions have absolutely no idea what to do with such an opportunity.

I'm still in coach Rod Marinelli's corner, and I'd love to give him some pearls of wisdom for advice, but I'm at a loss here. I don't know what the answer is. I'm tempted to say blow it up and make an overhaul in personnel, but I'm not sure if that's the right way to go. How do you change a mindset? How do you wash away decades of futility? I really don't know what to do anymore. But I do know this: when they lost yesterday, I was not surprised. But here's the worst part: I didn't even really care, either. The Lions are 0-5. The season is a lost cause, and we're barley into October. Yet my overall feeling is, So what?

The chilling thought, though, is that I'm afraid some of Rod Marinelli's players might have the very same attitude as I have. I think they have for years now, those Lions.

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