Don’t think for a moment that the Detroit Lions haven’t played a full role in the history of the National Football League, even during all of those dark and dismal years in which the Motor City often resembled a win-free footballing wasteland.
There are all kinds of once-viral videos floating around the internet proving this point. Like Forrest Gump manifested into franchise form, the Lions were there for endless jaw-dropping moments that live on for posterity.
On the wrong end.
There was the Motown Miracle. The Orlovsky, where quarterback Dan stepped unknowingly out of his own end zone for a safety in a game ultimately decided by, ouch, two points.
You don’t even have to go far back to remember they were on the wrong end of Justin Tucker’s longest field goal in history in 2021. They’ve been bamboozled by shanked playoff punts and blown coverages to gift-wrap game-losing touchdowns. They’ve had things happen like catches ruled as non-catches that led to the unofficial naming of a rule (thanks, Calvin Johnson).
They even once gave up the ball after winning the coin flip in sudden-death overtime, opting instead to pick a favorable side of the field. You can guess how that one ended.
All those incidents, some grainier than others, are worth a look for anyone with the slightest interest in pro football nostalgia, recent and not so recent.
And they all part of the reason why Lions fans are currently the happiest group of people in the pigskin universe.
I mean it.
Detroit’s supporters are currently happier than fans of the reigning Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs, who the Lions remarkably rallied to beat on the road in the season-opener. The Lions played loose and giddy as Kansas City labored through the absences of Travis Kelce and Chris Jones while perhaps feeling the pressure pinch of this year’s repeat effort.
Detroit’s denizens are also happier than those who bleed for the Dallas Cowboys, despite their dominant 40-0 Week 1 shutout of the New York Giants. And happier than Jets fans even before Aaron Rodgers went down.
They’re more gleeful than the other teams in the NFC North, emerging as the favorites to win the division for the first time since 1993, when it was known as the NFC Central and some guy called Barry Sanders wore the silver and blue.
Look, the Lions are happier than anyone and everyone because this is a thrill ride that spanned the entire winter, with the nailbiting 21-20 victory at Arrowhead being the team’s ninth win in its last 11 games under Dan Campbell.
There was no heartbreaking exit from the playoffs to get over. The Lions shrugged off their final-day elimination from postseason contention, cheerily ruined Rodgers’ final home game at Lambeau Field, and went sauntering into the spring with a surge of optimism that looks well-founded.
Sunday’s game (1:00 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) brings the Seattle Seahawks to town, with the Lions’ most glaring apparent advantage starting with their defensive line, anchored by second-year defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.
QB Jared Goff looks fluid and confident if not totally resurrected, presiding over a versatile offense that last week made fine rushing use of David Montgomery and a sweet receiving double act from Josh Reynolds and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
If any NFL city deserves festive times, it’s Detroit, and Campbell loves the fact the fans are feeling it.
“I know what (Kansas City was), and it was loud,” Campbell told reporters this week. “I expect it to be louder than that, I really do. I just know our fans. It’ll be to the point where you can’t hear yourself think — for Seattle anyway.”
Looking ahead to division duels, the Lions and the Packers square off in Wisconsin in Week 4, and the teams reunite on Thanksgiving afternoon in Detroit in a game that for so long has been a brief holiday distraction to take account of the league’s laughingstock. There are always turkey legs, but it’s usually someone from another team chewing on one.
This version of the Lions is bent on bucking that tradition and busting some other forlornly earned assumptions.
“We get some wins here and this place will really be on fire,” Campbell added.
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Take a peek when the cameras pan the stands on Sunday. See the smiles of fans who no longer have to wear bags on their heads. There will likely be teams who are better than Detroit this season. Who knows for sure?
But right now, who’s happier? No one.
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