Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Lions are In with the BEST

As the clock strikes 00:00 late Sunday night the end of the regular season comes once again to the National Football League.  20 teams and their fans are left with nothing to do but reflect - What went right?  What went wrong? What will come next season?  What Free Agents will be signed, who will be the new coach? The new GM? Where do we draft and who will be there?

For 12 years these are questions that as Lions fans, we often started asking in December -- much less waiting until the season was officially over -- it was usually over long before the clock struck 00:00 and the ifseason would begin once again.  IF only they do this, then they will have a chance...IF this happens...

But not 2011.

The Detroit Lions are one of the 12.  You can argue if they belong or not (they do) until you are honolulu blue in the face.  The Detroit Lions will play the New Orleans Saints on Saturday -- their first step on the road to the Superbowl.

That's right.  Superbowl.  The first step is making the playoffs.  The next step is to do what you've done all year: win.

This was an historic season for the Lions and Matthew Stafford especially -- even if he did get a pro-bowl snub.   what, you're laughing?  Don't think the Lions are one of the best?  NetRat compiled this stat that should give any doubting Lions fan pause.  

All the Lions lost today was their 5th seed spot in the playoffs, they are the 6th seed and are playing toe to toe with the big boys, because even if it's hard for us fans to grasp it, the Lions are now one of the big boys too.

Don't believe me? Well, let's take a look at the quarterback passing record... and see where the Lions 23 year old QB is on the list...

1. Drew Brees: 5,476 yards in 2011
2. Tom Brady: 5,235 yards in 2011
3. Dan Marino: 5,084 yards in 1984
4. Drew Brees: 5,069 yards in 2008
5. Matthew Stafford: 5,038 yards in 2011

That's not a typo, that's not a fluke, that's real numbers that are real hard to get unless you are one of the big boys.

That's right -- Matthew Stafford had the 5th most prolific year by an NFL quarterback in the HISTORY of the NFL.  He just happened to do it in a year in which two other QB's (Brees and Brady) set a new number one and two on that list.

The Lions also make several entries on the Cold Hard Football Fact list of 2011 records:

2 -- 500-yard passing games in the 2011 season: Tom Brady (517) in Week 1 at Miami; Matthew Stafford (520) in Week 17 at Green Bay. NFL quarterbacks topped 500 yards in a game just 10 times from 1920 to 2010.
2 -- Passers who topped 5,000 yards through the air in the NFL's first 91 seasons: Dan Marino (5,084) in 1984 and Drew Brees (5,069) in 2008.
3 -- Passers who topped 5,000 yards through the air in the 2011 season: Brees (5,476), Brady (5,235) and Stafford (5,038). Eli Manning (4,933) fell just 67 yards of the 5,000-yard milestone, giving the 2011 season four of the six most prolific passing performances in NFL history.
3 -- Quarterbacks who topped 40 touchdown passes in 2011: Brees (46), Aaron Rodgers (45) and Stafford (41). Brady fell just one TD shy of joining the list.
5 -- Quarterbacks who topped 40 touchdown passes in an NFL season from 1920 to 2010.
1,681 -- NFL-best receiving yards by Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson in 2011, No. 7 on the single-season list, and five shy of the franchise record set by Herman Moore in 1995.

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/kerry_byrne/01/03/2011.season.review/index.html#ixzz1iSSYdQzJ

Matthew Stafford has shown now that at just 23 years of age he is already moving into the Brady/Brees/Manning/Rodgers of the QB elite.  

Over the last 12+ years, I have often heard "you are what your record says you are" while looking for the positives among the ashes of bitter disappointment.  Well, to those same naysayers dooming and glooming the Lions' chances in the playoffs the Lions are 10-6.  They took control of their own destiny and played their way into the playoffs.  Unlike teams like the Bengals and the Broncos, they didn't back their way into the playoffs based on other teams' losses.  Detroit earned its spot.  Period.  Also, lets look at those 6 losses...

2 were to Green Bay -- one big loss, one close shootout where the last team with the ball won.  Green Bay is 15-1 and the #1 seed in the NFC

1 was to the Atlanta Falcons, who also ended up 10-6 and are the #5 seed.  That game came down to the wire.

1 was to the New Orleans Saints who are 13-3.  They are the #4 seed in the playoffs and faced a Lions team that was extremely shorthanded -- and they still held the Saints well below their season scoring average.  Stafford also still was wearing gloves to protect his broken finger.  

1 was to the Chicago Bears who were on a serious playoff run before losing Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, their season doomed by a lack of depth -- especially at the quarterback position. 

1 was to the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers who won on a do-or-die 4th down play with only a few seconds to go. They are the #2 seed.  

So....the Lions lost to the #1 seed twice, the #2 seed, the #3 seed and the #5 seed.  They did not play the #4 seed (New York Giants 8-8) but beat Dallas at home earlier in the season. All of the games were competitive or so close that on any given Sunday you could flip a coin to determine the outcome.  

I expect from the Lions' playoff game exactly what I saw all season from the Lions:  Electrifying, entertaining football being played at a high level -- and hopefully, like 10 of 16 games this season, a win. 

Go Lions!!!

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