By: Jamie Samuelsen
In the darkest of the Lions dark days during the last decade, there was any number of stats that summed up their total futility.
– They didn’t make the playoffs between 1999 and 2011.
– They didn’t have a season with double-digit wins between 1995 and 2011.
– They suffered double-digit losses in nine of the ten years between 2001 and 2010, coming up for air only in 2007 when they finished 7-9.
And of course, the granddaddy of them all – the 0-16 stink bomb in 2008.
Nothing compares to a winless season, so I won’t try to make that argument. But I do believe that the silver medalist for absurd accomplishments was the fact that the Lions lost 26 straight road games between 2007 and 2010. That set an NFL record that broke the previous record owned by…the Detroit Lions who lost 24 straight between 2001 and 2004. It really says something when you assemble a team that’s so bad that you break your own record for misery.
But that was then.
Now, in a story that hasn’t gotten much attention, the Lions are playing pretty well away from Ford Field. In fact, they’re playing as well as anyone. The Lions snapped the 26-game losing streak with a surprising 23-20 win over the Buccaneers on December 19, 2010. Since that win, the Lions are 9-6 in their last 15 road games. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much but consider these two facts.
1) The Lions were 9-70 in their previous 79 road games prior to their current run. Think about that for one second. It took the Lions 79 games to win nine road games prior to December of 2010. It’s taken them only fifteen to win their next nine. I would call that progress.
2) If you use that December 19th date as a starting point, the Lions are tied for second in the entire league in road wins. The Patriots have won ten. The Lions, 49ers, Packers, Falcons and Lions have all won nine. Granted, I created these time parameters to fit my argument. But it does coincide with the Lions rise from the ashes to the point they are now. And it’s pretty decent company to see who’s on the list with them. The best teams win on the road consistently. The Lions aren’t one of the best teams yet. But this is certainly a step in the right direction.
I asked Jim Schwartz why he thought this had changed so dramatically other than the obvious improvement in the talent on the roster. He said, “I think you’re a good team on the road when you don’t get affected by crowd noise. A lot of it has to do with your quarterback. All the quarterbacks we’ve had here didn’t let those things affect them.”
Matthew Stafford gets most of that credit. But Schwartz is right. This current run of good road play started with Drew Stanton in Tampa Bay, continued with Shaun Hill the next week in Miami and then led to Stafford’s success over the past year and a half. Sunday is a huge test with the dome and the crowd in Minnesota. But it’s a test that Stafford passed last year with a 26-23 overtime win. That was the Lions first win in Minnesota since 1997. Another of the pathetic statistics that’s thankfully further and further in the rear view mirror.