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Detroit Lions Finish on Four-Game Winning Streak, Future Is Promising

After being a joke of a franchise the past decade, there are encouraging signs in Detroit that the Lions are finally turning things around. The team rebuilt heavily in the past two drafts, nailing their first four selections in 2009, and landing Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh in the first round this year. They ended the season on a four-game winning streak, finishing the year 6-10 — tied for their second-best record since 2001, however pathetic that may be.

Detroit’s defense played well over the final month of the year, allowing only three points to the Packers (who were without Aaron Rodgers most of the game), and 13 to the Vikings in the season finale. The two home divisional wins proved Detroit can compete in the NFC North, and they were a referee screw job away from more than respectability in the division. On top of the wins over Green Bay and Minnesota, the Lions won at Tampa Bay and Miami in the final month, with the road win over Tampa standing out.

Not only was Detroit’s defense ascending towards the end of the season, their offense did well despite swinging between backups Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton. Second-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew became one of Hill’s favorite targets and justified the first-round pick Detroit expended to get him, while Calvin Johnson dominated as he did two years ago. Unfortunately, former top overall pick Matthew Stafford was injured for the second straight year and forced to miss all but two and a half games, but he showed extreme promise in the action he saw.

The biggest obstacle for Detroit next season will be health. If they can get 16 games out Stafford, Jahvid Best (who was bothered by turf toe), and Calvin Johnson, they will be set. The defense is improving and the offense has all the right pieces to succeed if healthy. This is a team on the rise for the future.

Lions Snap a Record 19-Game Intra-Divison Losing Streak

The Detroit Lions snapped a 19-game divisional losing streak on Sunday with a 7-3 victory over the Packers. Their last victory over an NFC North opponent came in Week 4 of the 2007 season when they defeated the Bears. Detroit’s streak was the longest within any single division since the merger of in 1970.

On a lighter note, only one of the Lions’ four divisional losses this year was by more than five points — a two-touchdown loss to the Vikings back in week three. The other three were by a combined 11 points. As you may recall, their week one loss to the Bears was the result of Calvin Johnson’s touchdown catch that wasn’t.

Despite the 3-10 record, Lions’ fans have reason to be optimistic about the future. They seem to play everybody tough and have a talented young core that includes Calvin Johnson, defensive rookie of the year front-runner Ndamukong Suh, and the oft-injured Matt Stafford.

With a victory on Sunday, the Lions passed the torch to the Buffalo Bills, who have lost five straight AFC East games.  Don’t worry, Lions fans — you’re streak is probably going to be safe for a long time.

Photo Credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images

Lions Fan Joe Paquette Jr. Walks 430 Miles to Support Team

File this story under the heading of crazy fans who have nothing better to do. You always hear about dares where people say they’ll walk from here to there as part of a challenge, well one Lions fan actually walked 430 miles from his home to Detroit because he has nothing better to do wanted to support the team.

Sports by Brooks Live shared the story from WDIV of Joe Paquette Jr. who walked from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Detroit to show the Lions his support and dedication. Apparently Paquette Jr. made the commitment because the exercise was good for him for health reasons. The 63-year-old walked around 30 miles a day and the entire journey took over two weeks.

While I am poking a lot of fun at Paquette, the Lions really would be well served to display as much drive and commitment as Paquette showed them. The team will be improved this year and the offense will score points, but the question in Detroit remains: will they be able to stop anyone else? Doubtful.

Sources:
SbB Live
Lions Fan Walks 400 Miles To Team [WDIV]

NFL Should Discipline Lewand for DUI

On Friday night, Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand was arrested for drunk driving. Lewand was on his way home from a golf outing hosted by a former Lions player. As you can see in the Tom Lewand DUI video, he failed the field sobriety tests and when he finally agreed to take the breathalyzer test it showed that he was over twice the legal limit to drive. Yeah, that’s smart.

Now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that Lewand may face disciplinary actions for violating the personal-conduct policy. Excuse me, but he may face discipline? This shouldn’t even be a question — he should be disciplined. Goodell keeps reminding us that it’s not just players who can violate this policy so I don’t even think there’s a question.

Lewand apologized and said he was “deeply sorry” his actions. Well I’m deeply disgusted. Are you telling me that you don’t have money for a taxi to drive you home? Are you telling me there wasn’t someone sober who could have driven you home? It’s not only embarrassing to Lewand, but to the Detroit Lions’ franchise as well. On top of the embarrassment, let’s not forget who dangerous it can be to drive drunk. And this is the man who is supposed to be a leader within the organization? The man who’s supposed to set an example for the players and employees to follow? This is a man who is supposed to make decisions that are best for the team and the city of Detroit, but he can’t even make a good decision for himself.

It’s pretty clear that Lewand deserves some sort of punishment from Commissioner Goodell. It would be an example of hypocrisy if no action is taken.

Sources:
Goodell Confirms Detroit Lions President Tom Lewand Could Face NFL Discipline [USA Today]

2009 Detroit Lions Schedule Already Released

Sorry, I got this in an email and couldn’t resist. I wonder which of these games will be nationally televised.

September
13………………… Taft Junior High School
20………………… Cub Scout Troop #101
27………………… Detroit Blind Academy

October
04………………… Spanish American War Vets
11………………… Crippled Children’s Home
18………………… Eloise Mental Hospital
25………………… Girl Scout Troop # 353

November
01………………… Michigan Venereal Disease Clinic
08………………… Fraser Boys Choir
15………………… Korean Vets
22………………… National Hospital Pastorial Ministers
26………………… Great Lakes Sychronized Swimming Team
SPECIAL MONDAY NIGHT GAME
December
08……………….. Grand Rapids Boys Club

The Lions will also have new rules that apply solely to them to balance out the playing field:

    When playing the Blind Academy , the Lions must not hide the football under their jerseys.

    A touchdown (this is when the ball is carried over the goal line. For all you Lions fans that have never seen this) it is still worth 6 points.

    The Lions will be awarded a first down with each gain of three yards or more, instead of the usual ten yards.

At least they’d have a shot at Thanksgiving with this scenario. I’m setting the over/under at 5 wins. Any takers?

Rod Marinelli Gets the Last Word

After hearing from Dominic Raiola of the Lions, I really started to ease up on them down the stretch hoping they’d win a game. Naturally it didn’t happen and they have gone down as the first 0-16 team in NFL history. Things really got ugly down the stretch when a reporter made a snide comment about Marinelli’s son in law, Joe Barry, who also happened to be the team’s defensive coordinator. Incidentally, that reporter was later fired. But it was Rod Marinelli, who after taking so much heat from the media (rightfully so), got in the last word:

Former Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli was at the Senior Bowl practice this morning but was in no mood to talk to the Detroit media. As three beat writers approached Marinelli, who was sitting in the stands, he told us to get lost in his own charming way.

“Goodbye, ladies,” he said.

Apparently Marinelli used to employ that salutation to the reporters when a lady was present, but this time it was nothing but men. I can’t say I’m really surprised by this story given Marinelli’s history as a tough guy who once wrestled a bear. In the end, it’s still Marinelli who loses because it’s his team that went 0-16, and really, who won’t pick on you for that? At least he’s not going out without getting the last word.

(via Pro Football Talk)

Dominic Raiola Is Not Remorseful for Flipping Off Lions Fans

I’ll tell you, after hearing Dominic Raiola’s interview Tuesday on The Monty Show on Sporting News Radio, I don’t want to see the team go 0-16. At first I did just to spite the organization for being so poorly run; it would be the ultimate insult if they were to go winless. But after hearing Raiola talk, I really started to realize that there are some solid players on the team — guys who are trying, who do care, who want to win, and who hate losing. It’s because of guys like Raiola that I now want the Lions to get into the win column and avoid a lifetime of embarrassment. Because Raiola’s been with the team since ’01, he’s taken the brunt of the criticism from Lions fans (at least in his mind). His emotions boiled over on Sunday in the loss to the Vikings when he flipped off the Ford Field fans, a move that cost him $7,500. The organization said they were disappointed with Raiola’s move and said that’s not how they treat their fans. Raiola is saying otherwise:

“You know, if you’re not happy, why are you coming to the game? I understand that they haven’t seen a winner in eight years, so don’t come — don’t come until we turn it around. If they want me to be quiet and just take it … I don’t agree that I should do that.

You get booed a lot in the NFL — we get booed every week. Fans pay a lot of money and times are really hard right now, and we understand that they want to see a winner. When they get personal [with] myself and my family, I’m just not going to put up with that. I’m a human being, I’m just not going to deal with that.”

About the worst thing a player can do for an organization is criticize the fans the way he did. He had several chances to take his comments back or apologize but instead stuck with his true feelings. And you know what? Eight years of consistent losing will do that to you. The gesture is taking it too far, and telling fans not to come to games is probably the wrong thing to say, but because of Raiola I now want the Lions to actually win a game.