Five takeaways from Detroit Lions’ 11-game losing streak: How bad will it get?

Detroit Free Press

Ryan Ford
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers was the 11th straight for the Detroit Lions, a stretch that dates back to their last win, on Oct. 27 against the New York Giants.

Now, we try not to harp on Lions losses too much, we really do. Our first thought was, “11 losses? That’s not THAT many.”

And then we crunched the numbers: The Lions are the 22nd team in NFL history to lose exactly 11 games in a row. And, hey, it could be worse: 40 franchises have lost MORE than 11 games in a row (including the Lions — twice — but we’ll get to them later).

In short, there’s plenty of time before these Lions really start making history, but for now, let’s take a look inside the Lions’ 11-game skid:

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The Lions have been outscored by 101 points over their streak, for an average of 9.2 points a game. But it’s not entirely that bad, with seven of those 11 losses coming by a single score. (Three-TD losses to Tampa Bay last season and Green Bay this season drove up the average a bit.)

Double-digit losers

While the Lions were busy cratering last season without Matthew Stafford at quarterback, another team with light-blue jerseys was doing the same minus its own franchise QB: The Carolina Panthers beat the Titans on Nov. 3, then lost their final eight games of 2019. The Panthers did so last season without Cam Newton, as injuries handed them eight games of Kyle Allen and Will Grier, who combined for 2,259 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The Lions, meanwhile, got 1,669 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions from Jeff Driskel and David Blough.

This season has seen more of the same despite both teams getting veteran QBs; Stafford returned for the Lions, while the Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal. (The Panthers also parted ways with longtime coach Ron Rivera and hired Matt Rhule out of Baylor. The Lions … stuck with Matt Patricia.) That leaves both teams with double-digit active losing streaks heading into Week 3 of 2020. No other teams are close; the third-longest losing streak belongs to the Vikings, at four games. (You like that, Kirk Cousins?)

Even if the Lions and Panthers continue to lose, only one of them can get to 19 straight losses; the two teams meet on Nov. 22 in Charlotte, N.C. Somebody’s gotta win that one, right?

Meet the Anti-Lions

While the Lions (and, yes, the Panthers) were lollygagging through 2019’s final nine weeks, the rest of the NFL was racking up wins. Each of the 30 other teams have won at least two games since the Lions last won one, including the Bengals, who were still bad enough to draft No. 1 overall.

But no team qualifies as the “Anti-Lions,” like the Baltimore Ravens; John Harbaugh’s squad has gone 11-0 while the Lions have gone 0-11. (The Ravens’ regular-season win streak is actually 14 games, dating back nearly a full year, to Oct. 6, 2019.) The Ravens’ victories haven’t been particularly close, with just two wins by a single score during the Lions’ 11-game skid.

The Ravens are the only team with double-digit wins during the Lions’ streak, with the Chiefs at 9-1 and the Packers — of course — at 8-2.

North pull

Surprisingly, considering the Packers’ surge, only six of the Lions’ 11 straight losses have come against division foes — and the Packers aren’t even the prime offender. That would be the Chicago Bears, who have beaten the Lions three times in less than a year, including Week 1’s 17-point fourth-quarter comeback. The Packers are second, with two wins over the Lions.

The good news: It will be a while before the Lions can lose again to an NFC North foe. The Lions’ next five games are against non-division opponents, with a return to NFC North competition Nov. 8 against the Vikings. (Which is probably a good thing, considering the Lions have lost eight straight to NFC North teams, with their last win coming on Dec. 30, 2018.)

Competing against themselves

You know you’re a hardcore Lions fan if your response to 11 straight losses is, “I don’t pay attention till it’s a baker’s dozen.” And, indeed, this skid is only the Lions’ third-longest of the past 20 years.

Two more losses, though, and they’ll head into their bye week tied with the 1999-2000 squads — aka, the beginning of the Millen Dark Ages — at 13 straight. That team lost the 1999 season finale (thus missing the playoffs by one game), then dropped the first 12 games of Marty Mornhinweg’s tenure as coach.

After that, it’s on to the gold — er, make that Honolulu Blue — standard for consecutive losses: The 2007-09 Lions, who dropped 19 straight (third most in NFL history) over three seasons. Those Rod Marinelli-led Lions lost the 2007 finale, every game in 2008 (to become the NFL’s first 0-16 team), and then the first two games under new coach Jim Schwartz.

Don’t worry though; even if the Lions go 0-16 again this season, they’ll still be a loss short of the NFL’s ultimate modern ignominy: 26 straight losses, set by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976-77. 

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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