The Detroit Lions narrowly avoided losing a trap game against the NFL’s worst team Sunday before they mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Cleveland Browns.
Then they did something even more impressive and tried to spin a narrative about how great the 0-9 Browns are. Remember, the Browns’ home is a place nicknamed “The Factory of Sadness.”
The Lions climbed a few spots in the playoff hunt. But the only national buzz they generated Monday came from Glover Quin’s statement that the Browns probably have better athletes than “25 out of the 32 teams in the league.” Coach Jim Caldwell also tried to explain that the Browns have good players.
These are the things teams tell themselves to feel better. They are justifications that excuse their own shortcomings.
Now, the Lions face another trap game this week in Chicago. Like the Browns, the Bears are an opponent the Lions should dominate. But how much confidence does anyone have that the Lions can do that?
The Lions are going to go into the spin cycle again this week. What we won’t hear from coaches and players is the obvious. That Bears coach John Fox is on the brink of being fired. That the Bears are 3-6 and so hopeless that 5,624 fans skipped Sunday’s game at Soldier Field against their most-hated rival, the Green Bay Packers.
It was just as well. Those Bears fans didn’t have to sit around and watch Mitchell Trubisky get sacked five times. Or watch their run game rack up 55 yards in a 23-16 loss. Or watch the defense allow Brett Hundley, making the third start of his career, to post a 110.8 passer rating.
The Bears stink like a Bear doing his business in the woods. So, I’m going to do the Lions a favor and preemptively offer all the excuses they’re sure to offer this week for why the Bears are good. This way, the Lions don’t have to waste any energy coming up with dumb ideas. That’s why I’m here: dumb ideas. You’re welcome, Lions.
Excuse No. 1: Division games are always tough
That’s a myth perpetuated by the frequency of games in the division. Just because you play an opponent often and develop a certain amount of animosity toward them doesn’t mean the games are tough or that the opponents are good. The Bears, who are 0-3 against the NFC North, are going to play the nail to every division opponents’ hammer the rest of the season.
Excuse No. 2: The Bears have beaten good teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Carolina Panthers
If you want an instant headache, watch the crime against football otherwise known as the Bears’ 23-17 overtime win over Pittsburgh in September. If you want to watch someone turn in a winning lottery ticket, watch safety Eddie Jackson return two turnovers for 151 yards and touchdowns in a 17-3 win over Carolina.
Excuse No. 3: The Bears have a good defense
This one, I’m willing to give on. But just a little. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is the only thing saving the Bears’ bacon. The defense ranks ninth overall, 10th against the pass, 16th against the run and 13th in points allowed per game. They have good front-seven players in Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, Nick Kwiatkoski and Pernell McPhee. But linebacker Danny Trevathan has been hurt and cornerback Kyle Fuller hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft status.
Excuse No. 4: Soldier Field is a tough place to play
Sure, when Mike Ditka was prowling the sidelines and Mike Singletary was playing linebacker. But Soldier Field is only a tough venue now because of the terrible condition of its grass, thanks to the Chicago Park District.
Excuse No. 5: John Fox is a veteran coach who has taken two teams to the Super Bowl
That’s true. It’s also true Fox is about to end his head coaching career after a three-year disaster that has made the Great Chicago Fire look like a mild flare-up by comparison. Fox and Caldwell threw two of the worst challenge flags on Sunday. I’d like to see a showdown between the coaches, who meet in the middle of the field at 20 paces to see who can initiate the dumber challenge.
There is no conceivable reason for the Lions to lose Sunday in Chicago. No reason at all. But that doesn’t mean the Lions won’t try to provide one.