This week marks the 60th anniversary of William Clay Ford becoming the majority owner of the Detroit Lions on the same day JFK was assassinated. That inauspicious timing fits the Lions franchise. The Kennedy family curse has nothing on the Ford family’s. Between 1952 and 1962, Detroit had won three championships and accumulated the league’s fifth-best winning percentage. Since then, the Lions have been stuck in a never-ending spiral.
In its last 948 games of Ford family ownership, they have posted a .426 winning percentage. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars have lost more frequently than the Lions. So you can understand why there’s so much joy billowing from The Motor City during Detroit’s first 8-2 start to the season since November of 1962.
On Sunday, the Lions wandered around like an amnesiac who forgot they were the division frontrunners for 56 minutes. However, once the lightbulb lit up, Chicago’s incompetence kicked in. With 3:59 remaining, the Bears possessed a 96 percent chance of winning according to ESPN analytics.
On the next drive, Jared Goff got busy. In 1:16 of game time, he connected with Jameson Williams on a 32-yard touchdown strike. The Bears did what they do best on the ensuing drive by playing for the No. 1 pick, failing to pick up a first down and only use eight seconds.
With surgical precision, Goff proceeded to slice open the Bears on a methodical drive and removed their hearts on another touchdown drive that put the Lions ahead. For added measure, Aidan Hutchinson bullied Bears tackle Darnell Wright, strip sacked Justin Fields and deflected the ball into the end zone for a safety. His presence never even registered with Fields.
The safety ended a four-game sack drought for Hutchinson that nearly lasted five games and was getting Detroit nervous. Beneath the surface though, he ranked third in the league in pressures created behind only Micah Parsons and Maxx Crosby. That the Lions are looking like they have all the answers at a time when the Cleveland Browns are 7-3 highlights how upside down this year has been.
The Lions best winning percentage since 1962 was their 12-4 season in 1991 and even that was dampened by the memory of starting guard Mike Utley’s paralysis. Those Lions erupted for 38 points in a commanding win over Aikman’s Cowboys in the Divisional Round for the Lions most recent playoff win. That team had one of the widest performance variances ever seen, losing 35-3 to the San Francisco 49ers, obliterating the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins, 45-0, in Week 1, and then getting shredded by those same Redskins in the NFC Championship Game. The 31-year span since the Lions last notched a playoff win is the NFL’s longest drought by nine years.
There hasn’t been much to celebrate in Detroit Lions lore. Coupled with Minnesota’s loss on Sunday Night Football, the Lions are in a commanding position to run away with their fourth division title in team history and first since 1993.
Detroit’s brand is in the toilet, but on the field, these Lions have avoided the injury bug that has plagued the organization. They’ve avoided the trap games, kept Goff upright and Josh Dobbs’ magic may be running out. All that’s left to do is avoid complacency and dodge the typical Lions tailspin.
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