DETROIT -- For a second, the Detroit Lions might have had you believing. They won two games in a row on the road and climbed back to .500. They showed promise on defense and quarterback Matthew Stafford started to flash to the player he was last year on offense.
They started to show potential -- even if the two teams Detroit had beaten had losing records. Yet if you’ve watched the Jason Sudiekis TV show, "Ted Lasso," you knew what might come next. If you’ve watched the Detroit Lions for any length of time over the past six decades, you knew, too.
The title of the final episode of the first season explained what happened to the Lions in a 41-21 drubbing by Indianapolis on Sunday so succinctly.
"It’s the Hope that Kills You."
With the Lions, again and again and again and again and again (and this sentence can go on for 60 years for their fans), the hope inevitably crushes them. It’s not that beating the Colts on Sunday was something that was necessarily expected. But after back-to-back wins over Jacksonville and Atlanta, the Lions once again gave their fans some semblance of hope. Their maligned defense looked like it had begun to coalesce.
By the end of Sunday, none of the positivity remained. Indianapolis throttled Detroit. The Lions had an all-too-familiar implosion in the second quarter, with a bad Danny Shelton unnecessary roughness penalty on a third down elongating what became an Indianapolis touchdown drive. Another penalty against Tony McRae gave the Colts better field position on another drive that ended in a touchdown. The offense, prior to the final drive of the second half, had as many passing yards (30) as penalty yards (30). And to cap it off, Matt Prater missed a 48-yard field goal.
Indianapolis poured it on in the second half. A Stafford pick-six. A strip-sack of Stafford by the Colts’ Darius Leonard. This is how potential close losses turn into blowouts and how two weeks of hope is trampled in 60 minutes of game time.
The Lions aren’t a bad team. They are clearly better than Jacksonville and the New York Jets. But good? No, not close. Contenders for a playoff spot? Technically, yes, because of the amount of time left in the season, an extra wild-card spot and an easier stretch of four games coming up against Minnesota, Washington, Carolina and Houston.
But to be thought of as anything more than a clearly flawed team, Detroit -- against opponents that matter -- has to show much, much more. It's something the Lions clearly didn’t do Sunday.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Lions didn’t look prepared for good Philip Rivers showing up. Their defense had massive gaps for him to hit all game. Covering a running back on a route out of the backfield was a rare occurrence -- running back Nyheim Hines had two receiving touchdowns -- and Rivers had all the time he needed for the most part to pick apart Detroit’s secondary. Nothing Detroit seemed to do against the pass seemed to work and left the Lions, in many ways, looking back where it felt they were after their last home loss against New Orleans in October.
Troubling trend: Not so much a trend, but a major, major concern for Detroit. Kenny Golladay didn’t play in the second half with a hip injury and wasn’t even spotted on the sideline. Detroit’s offense had its issues with Golladay in the game on Sunday, including a run game that went nowhere. But without the team’s No. 1 receiver, the Lions’ offense largely looked stuck. Stafford threw a pick-six. The run game was the worst it has been all year and if Golladay is out for a length of time, the Lions need to be able to discover another playmaker to save their season.
Eye-popping stat: The Lions’ loss is day No. 371 without a home win for Detroit. The next chance will come in two weeks against Washington, but it accentuates the team’s struggles at home, where they’ve lost seven straight.