DETROIT - A week ago, the Detroit Lions had victory in their grasp, and then defeat in their craw.
Yesterday, the Lions led 17-7, then trailed 35-17, and then had victory not in their grasp, but at least in their sights before defeat again became a reality by a 35-32 margin.
These are not the same old, same old Lions. These Lions are at least interesting. Sometimes they are interestingly good; sometimes interestingly bad. But interesting.
The Lions had 209 yards on their first five possessions and scored three times. Then they went punt-punt-interception, then failed miserably to get one yard on both third and fourth-down plays, and then punted again while the Philadelphia Eagles were scoring 28 unanswered points.
And then Detroit scored on drives of 80 and 55 yards and then recovered an onside kick and … well, you know how it ended. But it was interesting.
It has been suggested more than a few times that the Lions are cursed; the curse of Bobby Layne or Matt Millen, or some such thing. The Lions lost their starting quarterback a week ago, lost a key receiver, Nate Burleson, yesterday after a catch on the first play of the game. That forced Detroit to use a tight end out of the slot and run some plays it had rarely practiced since training camp, and it allowed the Eagles to suffocate Calvin Johnson, who was thrown at 11 times, but thrown to just four times for 50 yards.
Maybe it's a curse. More likely it's a team that has been epically bad finding that the road to respectability is long and winding, and that they are far from good enough to easily absorb the speed bumps. They are a linebacker or two short, a defensive back or two short. It's not a curse; it's a reality.
"That's a tough loss," coach Jim Schwartz said. "You never want to excuse a loss in this league. A lot of things came up in that game; a lot of injuries, a lot of situations. I'm proud to stand among these players. This is a tough team. This is a team that's resilient. I wasn't proud of the result but I was proud of the effort today."
Just in case that sounded like a moral victory, of which there is no such thing, Schwartz added, "It's a bottom-line league. They don't count [close games] any differently. A win is a win; a loss is a loss."
Shaun Hill, the backup quarterback, threw for 335 yards. The rookie running back, Jahvid Best, ran for 78 yards, most of it early, and caught nine passes for 154 yards. The young and promising tight end, Brandon Pettigrew, caught seven balls for 108 yards.
But the Lions did too much chasing after Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, stopping him only occasionally, and too much chasing after running back LeSean McCoy, stopping him only rarely. One passed for 284 yards, the other ran for 120.
At the end the Lions had the ball and, somehow, a chance to tie or win with 1:50 left, a time out in hand, and needing about 30 yards to give Jason Hanson a reasonable chance to kick for overtime. Hill put it up four times to four receivers and had four passes fall incomplete.
"We rose up and gave ourselves an opportunity to win at the end," said defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who had six tackles and was in on two sacks. "We just have to win. That's it."
That would be beyond
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