Jim Caldwell stepped to the podium as he does every week. He knew he had to talk first, that he needed an opening statement, a couple of words to summarize the game.
He couldn’t find any.
“Alright. Games in this league are…”
Caldwell shook his head.
“…are, uh, are crazy.”
When it was 23-10 I was sitting with a friend who had grown up a Lions fan but had moved out of state. He still paid attention, but became apathetic to actually watching the games.
“At a certain point they have to show me something,” he told me.
This game was not that. New Orleans isn’t good. Detroit was worse for most of the game. Stafford did what he’s always done. He was inconsistent but did a couple things that weren’t that good but were close enough to make you want to believe. In a game that should’ve had him hit the NOS the second quarter, he had to find a way to pull a win out of his ear hole in the final minutes. He did the same thing against Cleveland his rookie year and against the Cowboys in 2013. Those two seasons ended with 2-14 and 7-9 records. This one game means nothing.
Unless, of course, we’re just pawns in a cruel game being played some high power, one that gets pleasure from ironic word play. (THE SAINTS).
Around the same time I was having a conversation with my friend, Golden Tate was talking to offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s 10-year-old son on the bench. Lombardi’s son told Tate that the Lions’ defense would get a stop, the offense would score quick, the defense would get another stop, the offense would score again and the Lions would win by one.
The defense got the first stop. On offense, Tate shook a corner, planted his foot in the ground, froze Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro and outran the entire Saints organization.
“Divine intervention,” Tate said of the game.
Not long after Tate’s miracle, Glover Quin recognized something he had seen in the film room. From there, he read Drew Brees’ eyes and made a crucial interception.
“The stars aligned,” Quin said.
A questionable 4th-and-5 pass interference? Of course the refs made the call. Of course it kept the drive alive. Then Corey Fuller leapt, twisted back across his body to catch Stafford’s pass, located the ground, and made sure he got two feet in bounds. Corey Fuller. Of course.
So here we sit staring at the Lions and 5-2 record. For the moment, they hold the tiebreaker over the Packers, giving them the NFC North lead. And every beat writer, columnist and blogger is faced with an impossible job.
How do you explain a team that left its own coach shaking his head his head? How do you analyze a team that’s better without its best player? How do you rectify the team from the first three quarters with the one from the last five minutes?
The only way anyone can is with sideline pep talks from 10 year olds, devine intervention, stars aligning, lucky pass interference calls and Corey Fuller.
“Whatever works,” Tate said.
Even if it crazy.