I’m sorry for drinking Detroit Lions Kool-Aid, but here’s why I’m not giving up hope on 2020

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
| Detroit Free Press

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I have an apology to make. I made a mistake last week and I was wrong.

Yes, folks, I’m guilty. I drank the Detroit Lions Kool-Aid.

I not only drank it, I chugged it and asked for seconds.

I truly thought the Lions would beat the New Orleans Saints and I predicted a victory. Of course, it didn’t work out that way and the Lions lost, 35-29.

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I wrote a column last week predicting the victory based on several factors. But mostly I predicted a win because I stopped listening to my head and started listening to my gut after watching the Lions’ convincing victory at Arizona.

“Carlos, I can refer you to a good gastroenterologist and shrink,” a concerned reader named “rsschafer” emailed me. “It appears you have problems with your gut and head. Don’t let this continue, Berkowitz did and he began to think his neighbor’s dog was speaking to him.”

No, I’m not listening to my neighbor’s dog. But I did listen to my gut and I deservedly got punched there as I watched the Lions give up 35 unanswered points.

So now I have to say I’m sorry. I’ll put down my boot-shaped stein filled with Honolulu Blue liquid and I’ll pick up a fork so I can eat some crow baked inside a humble pie.

For 5 minutes on Sunday I was looking pretty smart when the Lions jumped to a 14-0 lead thanks to a long opening drive and then a score set up by Darryl Roberts’ interception.

As much as we all want to pretend we saw another blown double-digit lead coming, you know that at the moment you thought this might be a continuation of the previous week’s win at Arizona. Another three-phase victory in the making.

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Then it felt like the Saints tilted the field and Alvin Kamara started running downhill for the rest of the game. He was a bowling ball constantly knocking down the 11 pins in front of him.

Then the pins finally started fighting back and held Kamara to 22 rushing yards in the second half.

And that’s the problem with the 2020 Lions. They’re not hopeless. They’re the opposite. They’re good enough to get keep your hopes up. They’ve scored first all in all four games and they’ve had double-digit leads in three of them.

Yet they’re 1-3 because their players and coaches haven’t been resilient enough to battle back from adversity during losses. They’re 1-3 but they could easily be 3-1. And, let’s be honest, we all know they’re really 2-2 because D’Andre Swift shouldn’t have dropped that pass against the Bears.

“It’s very frustrating,” left tackle Taylor Decker said after the game. “We start fast, we show that we can get up on teams and score points on teams and stop teams. But at the end of the day, it’s a 60-minute game. So, I mean, yeah, it is frustrating. There’s no other way to say it.”

Actually, there are a lot of other ways to say it. The Free Press just can’t print them.

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I understand the frustration. Trust me. Every week I get emails that start something like, “I’ve been a Lions fan since I was 9,” or “I’ve been a fan for 60 years.” I’m friends with Lions fans and I’ve met several of you at training camp, in online chats and at games. I know the struggle is real.

I want to leave you with some hope. I swear I’m off the Kool-Aid. But in the sober light a few days removed from the game, I see hope in the Lions’ immediate future for two reasons: the schedule and the offense.

After the Lions return from this week’s bye, they travel to Jacksonville, which is 1-3 and has given up 97 points in three straight losses that included juggernauts such as the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals.

It gets better. In their next seven games, the Lions face truly awful teams. Four of their next seven opponents have no more than one win. (Yes, I’m sure those teams are looking at the 1-3 Lions thinking the same thing.)

But the Lions’ offense is another matter. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and that side of the ball had a bad game against the Saints — and they still had a chance to win when Adrian Peterson scored on a 5-yard run with 3:40 left.

And don’t give me any of this “the score wasn’t that close” nonsense. Yeah, the score was literally that close. I was at the game. The Saints were doing a lot of barking from their sideline when they were up 35-14. After the Lions scored a two-point conversion late in the game, the Saints were silent with worry because they had just seen Peterson run the ball down their throats.

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If you watched Peterson’s inspired touchdown run, on fourth down by the way, you watched a player who hadn’t given up on a team that hadn’t surrendered.

And they shouldn’t. If the Lions played a mostly bad game and still gave themselves a chance to beat the Saints, doesn’t it make sense that they have a good chance to beat some bad teams if they play somewhat better?

Beating bad teams won’t make the Lions a good team. But it’s a start. And if the players haven’t given up on the season, if they haven’t quit on themselves and their team, does it really make sense for the rest of us to quit on them so soon?

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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