In Battle for the Bottom, Lions Beat Browns In a Barn-Burner.
They say to not be the worst, you've got to beat the worst.
They say that offense loses games but defense prevents even a sniff of the championship.
They say you've just gotta take it fifty years at a time.
They don't say these things?
Well they do in Detroit.
Though sports cliches are generally formatted around the premise of winning, the Detroit Lions may now be a cliche all unto themselves, reframing futility to the point of definition.
But maybe, just maybe, there's another team that's willing to rip that crown away.
In the ultimate NFL toilet bowl pitting the 1-8 Lions versus the 1-8 Browns, it was unclear whether either team had what it took to win, though somewhere in the midst of the madness, an NFL game broke out.
And at least one thing became abundantly clear in what may have been the most enjoyable Lions game I've witnessed in years: Bad defense apparently trumps bad offense.
Brady Quinn threw for three touchdowns in the first quarter even though the Browns had scored a mere 9 points in the combined first quarters of their previous 9 games.
The Browns offensive explosion of 24 early points had the Lions on the ropes and was a testament to my perseverance that I even witnessed the game.
I went to three different sports bars in the Charlottesville, Virginia area that refused to turn on the game, instead opting to double and triple up on games that people were actually watching.
"Dude, they're down 24-3 to the Browns," one bartender said, "Nobody wants to watch that."
This obviously neglected the point that I wanted to watch it, but finally, at my forth stop I found a TV in the back corner, semi-obscured by a low handing joist, that I persuaded the ownership to change to the game.
And during the game, folks quietly trickled over to my little screen to watch the NFL's best competition of the day.
The Lions roared back instead of meowing their defeat, and young Matthew Stafford had a game for the record books, tossing five TD's (an NFL rookie record) for 422 yards against two interceptions.
The Lions had two 100-yard receivers in Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith, and traded punches with Brady Quinn and the Browns all night.
In a void, and separated from the history of the clubs, one may have wondered if they were watching two perennial Pro-Bowlers going at it.
With 5:44 left in the game, Brady Quinn delivered his forth touchdown strike of the night to take the lead, and when Stafford followed up with an interception on the next drive, it looked like the Lions were all washed up.
But the "comeback cats" were not done yet.
After getting the ball back Stafford sent a Hail Mary toward the end zone with no time left on the clock, getting slammed to the turf and sustaining a serious shoulder injury, but drawing a pass interference call from the Browns.
And thus, with 0:00 time left on the clock, a clearly injured Stafford delivered his final TD of the day on a rookie to rookie connection that ended with Brandon Pettigrew cradling the tying score.
Fittingly, the final nail was delivered by our Hall-of-Fame kicker on a suddenly very meaningful extra point.
Stafford couldn't even lift his arm over his head to celebrate the throw (though he tried).
And I was going nuts.
And much of the bar was going nuts, as slowly a couple other screens had been switched to the game as it heated up, and slowly people realized that the best game of the day was being played by NFL's two worst teams.
"Stafford's a gamer!" more than one drunken enthusiast told me.
"Calvin's a beast!" a couple others retorted.
"The Lions are on the right track!" many people agreed.
And though it's nice to revel in this victory, and I tend to agree with the first two assessments, I can only hope about the third.
What is clear, is this was a very big win for the Lions.
First, as our own Keith Shelton pointed out a couple weeks ago , the Lions simply cannot afford another number one pick, and this win over the Browns may have given them a little breathing room in that regard.
The Lions may now find themselves with a pick someone's actually willing to trade for, or at very least, one that will cost tens of millions of dollars less.
That's good for the cap in a year that may be the last to see uncapped rookie contracts.
And damn, Matthew Stafford is a gamer and I've got a lot of respect for the way he hobbled back onto the field for the winning play.
And damn, Calvin Johnson is a beast and hopefully the Lions have learned to put the ball in his hands as many times as they can.
And damn, Pettigrew is turning into a legitimate second option.
And damn, the Lions defense is still awful, but at least got the ball back to their young QB to give him a chance.
So there are some things to take away from this game, but it's best to keep some sort of perspective in the midst of the jubilation.
The Lions may not be the worst team in the league, just barely, but they've also still got quite a mountain to climb if they ever want to take in the view from the top.
But here's hoping their barn-burner over the Browns is just a taste of things to come.
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