Forget the loss: These Detroit Lions have playoff potential despite Bills’ win

Detroit Free Press

Free Press columnist Carlos Monarrez tackles the tough questions after the Detroit Lions28-25 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday at Ford Field:

What does this performance say about the Lions’ potential this season?

It says one thing very clearly: They have realistic playoff potential. I hate even typing that because the math doesn’t work in their favor as they reached seven losses with six games left. But you can’t ignore what the Lions (4-7) did against a potential top seed in the AFC. They played complementary football in all three phases. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough on the ground, in the air, on defense and on special teams to stake the Lions to a 22-19 lead with 2:39 left in the game. I don’t think the Lions will make the playoffs, because their 1-6 start doomed them and they would need too much help from teams ahead of them to grab a wild-card spot, but they should win another game or two no one expects and at least make their final games of the season meaningful.

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What did you think of D’Andre Swift?

Four months ago, the Lions’ supremely talented running back spoke about his goal of having 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving this season. To put it mildly, it has been a severely disappointing season for Swift, who has dealt with injuries and been ineffective during his limited time on the field. But he seemed to finally reach down and find another gear on his near-touchdown run late in the second quarter, appearing to score from 9 yards out by pushing the pile after initial contact. Replays showed his knee touched the turf at the 2, but Swift’s effort was nonetheless impressive, and his extra exuberant celebration was a clear sign he recognizes how desperately he needs to remind everyone how good a player he can be.

Who gets the most credit for the Lions’ near-miss?

The entire defense deserves a Purple Heart and probably a presidential commendation for turning in an inspired effort and playing better as the game wore on, despite several missing players. It was bad enough to be without Jeff Okudah, their concussed top cornerback, but with losing Julian Okwara to an elbow injury in the third quarter, John Cominsky still playing with a club on his right hand and Alim McNeil leaving the game briefly grabbing his left shoulder, the Lions didn’t exactly inspire confidence in a stout defensive effort against a dynamic Bills offense. Yet, it somehow still happened. They held the Bills offense scoreless most of the second half, Alex Anzalone had a red-zone interception, James Houston had two sacks, the front seven (mostly) contained Allen and the secondary broke up passes at key moments. Imagine what this team could be next year if the Lions actually added more talent on defense.

Contact Carlos Monarrez: cmonarrez@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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