Detroit Lions finally look like they have a plan as they step onto national Thanksgiving stage
Only here would a 4-6 NFL team stir its fan base the way the Detroit Lions are stirring theirs this week. Only here would a three-game winning streak feel like a parade.
No, not that parade. A Super Bowl parade, not that anyone around here knows what that feels like. For now, a Thanksgiving parade and some tailgating for the Lions-Bills Thanksgiving game today is the closest thing we’ve got.
The vibe in Ford Field should be lit. If the Lions keep it close throughout? That’s breaking-sound-barrier-level stuff.
“That was one of the first things I thought of after this game on the plane ride home,” said Lions coach Dan Campbell. It was “like, man, this place is going to be … it’s been electric, and I can only imagine now. I already know it’s going to be on fire.”
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Campbell said this unprompted. That he knew Ford Field would be on fire today tells us a few things about him and the franchise he leads.
For one, Campbell gets it. Gets his players. Gets the franchise. Gets you.
This was clear during his introductory news conference and it’s clearer by the week. Heck, he even gets us, not that the coach-media relationship is high on the list of how franchises become successful.
But the way Campbell handles his news conferences, the way he speaks directly to the questioner, the way he makes sure to call on reporters when he notices they’ve been trying to ask a question in a scrum is not only smart public relations but thoroughly decent and human.
It’s also telling.
He’s got an eye and an ear for human nature that gets lost in the meathead/biting kneecap narrative. And if anyone was wondering why a 1-6 team kept playing as hard as it could, that’s a good place to start.
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Campbell connects with his guys. It’s not complicated. He treats them like adults and listens and rethinks when he hears things that counter what he thought, like most successful coaches.
He has a way to go before he’ll be considered successful here. He’ll have to do a lot more than beat Green Bay, Chicago and the New York Giants.
Winning three games in a row is a nice start, though. That the streak came after a 1-6 start is more surprising, and surely part of the juice that’s given the region a jolt the last several days.
The Lions think they will have second-largest crowd at Ford Field since it opened in 2002. A 2011 Monday night crowd set the record. That was a playoff year and looked like it from early on.
The Lions are 4-6. Let me spell that out: Four … and … six. And this town is about to implode.
Imagine what Thanksgiving might feel like with a 6-4 team? Or a 10-2 team? Or an 11-1 team? This week has given us an idea.
The players sense it, too.
“Yeah, we were talking about it (earlier this week),” said Jared Goff, the Lions quarterback. “Coming off a three-game win streak? (Back) home, I know what this game means to the city of Detroit. Yeah, it’ll be fun. It’ll be really fun.”
When was the last time anyone used the words "fun" and "Lions" in the same story? Heck, in the same season?
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The national television audience might actually get a show this year. Though Campbell and his squad aren’t worried about anyone’s entertainment value. They just want to beat Buffalo, to keep winning. Style points and statement games are for the fans and the press.
“We’re rolling,” said Campbell.
“None of it matters in my opinion if we don’t win this next one,” he said.
Well, some of it matters. Actually, a lot of it matters.
Like the three-game win streak and the two-game road winning streak and the feeling so many had when the Lions took control of the Giants game and played their best game of the last five years. That sense of shock and elation doesn’t come often, which makes it unforgettable.
Campbell, though, is paid to take a longer view, and he’s still got his eyes on the possibilities at the end of this season, and so he is right that a loss to the Bills would make a playoff run more difficult. Not that he’s talking about playoffs, either — at least not directly.
Yet “none of it matters” is an acknowledgment that these Lions have built a little momentum, stunning as it is. And Campbell’s acknowledgment of what’s out there for this team — however improbable — is also an acknowledgment of why today will feel different inside Ford Field when the Lions take the field.
For the first time in forever, this franchise looks like it has a plan. More critically, it looks like it might, just might, be able to follow that plan.
And if that’s a bit of fool's gold or if that’s naïve in the end, so what? It won’t erase the jolt this franchise has given this town the last couple of weeks, and it won’t take away from the Thanksgiving week when the town truly looked forward to the game inside Ford Field in a way it hadn’t in years.
“We’re in a good place,” Campbell said.
He was talking about his players. He could’ve been talking to anyone who can’t wait to see them play today.
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.