NBC’s play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico said it perfectly when the Lions knocked off the reigning Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, last Thursday night to begin the NFL season:
“Not the same old lions, the 1-0 Lions.”
It’s not just football fans across the country who are thinking this way; it’s what every Detroit Lions fan is thinking.
I understand why people are so happy. Believe me, I didn’t anticipate a win in Arrowhead Stadium in week one. I only expected a competitive affair with the hope that the Detroit Lions organization was actually growing. Obviously, the win made me jump out of my seat without a care in the world.
But, after having a few days to process everything, I think a good-sized portion of the fanbase needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. I don’t want us to act like Cowboys fans, saying that “Detroit will win the Super Bowl,” because no one should be convinced of that quite yet.
Fans might need a reality check, but there is so much to be excited about after watching this team. Here are the three biggest takeaways that every Lions fan should reflect upon after this game.
#1. Detroit Can Take The NFC North, Not The Entire League
Looking at long-term predictions based on the entire weekend of play, fans should pick the Lions as the division favorites for the NFC North.
Shockingly, the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 20-17, on their own turf. Even with Justin Jefferson’s nine receptions for 150 yards, the turnovers caused Tampa Bay to get the edge. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to need more efficient performances from the offense in order for Minnesota to get themselves back in the talks for winning back-to-back division titles.
The Chicago Bears couldn’t help but lose yet again to the Green Bay Packers. Needless to say, Bears fans were expecting much more from a team that set the franchise record for losses last year. It seems the Lions don’t have a lot to worry about with a team that is also on a 10-game losing streak against divisional opponents.
The Green Bay Packers are the only football team to keep an eye on in terms of threatening Detroit’s groundbreaking division run. Quarterback Jordan Love played impressively; despite the tough shoes he had to fill following the recent departure of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Other than that, the Lions can dominate most, if not all areas of the field.
#2. The Rookies & Newcomers Showed Signs Of Long-Term Investment
Newly drafted players saw the field for the first time in a Lions uniform against the Chiefs.
The running back duo, Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery seem to be very promising. Gibbs teases the home run gene with some impressive runs, including a longer 18-yard gain. Montgomery even had a go-ahead touchdown late in the game to give the Lions the lead.
Former Iowans, tight end Sam LaPorta and linebacker Jack Campbell, made eye-catching plays. LaPorta caught five receptions for 39 yards and Campbell finished with a couple tackles.
Safety Brian Branch had one of the night’s biggest plays, with a pick-six to tie the game at 14-14.
Former Eagle C.J. Gardner-Johnson already seems to be a leader for the defense. There needs to be a hard-nosed mentality on the side of the ball Detroit struggled most last year, and safety Cardner-Johnson will keep the Lions intact with his defensive leadership.
It’s good to see that the young players already have positive influences on the field, something that is not always guaranteed. Keep an eye out for them as the season goes on.
#3. The Lions Have What It Takes To Win Big Games
The final score was 21-20; it was a very close game that came down to the final minutes.
It’s important to note that the Chiefs played without two of their biggest stars: Tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones.
But, given the run Detroit had at the end of last year and the hype surrounding them entering this year, there should really be no excuse that would diminish what the Lions accomplished. This game not only meant everything to the organization, but to the city as well. It’s the building blocks for a potentially historic season.
We need to be careful about where the Detroit Lions are placed on the league scale. It’s true that, yes, this wasn’t the hardest environment that they could’ve played in.
However, the reality is that Detroit hasn’t won anything yet. No division title, no playoff appearance and no playoff wins. But, we saw the grit mentality that Head Coach Dan Campbell has been preaching since the day he got his job.
The only thing we know for sure is that the Lions beat the defending Super Bowl champions. It was the biggest test the Lions could’ve asked for and they did what they needed to do. Now, it’s time to capitalize on the momentum when Detroit kicks off against the Seattle Seahawks this weekend in a sold-out Ford Field.