It was a scene that we are all too familiar with. The Detroit Lions have a lead at halftime and everything seems to be going their way. The offense is scoring points and the defense is holding up. If they can just maintain the momentum of the first half, they should win the game handily. Then the second half rolls around and everything goes to shit. The offense can’t get going and the defense gets torn to shreds. Then the Lions do just enough to make you think they can pull it off, only to screw it up in the end and lose in painful fashion. It’s a story that everyone in the Lions fandom universe knows very well.
That’s how it was at Ford Field on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles came to town. The Lions scored touchdowns on all three of their first half drives and managed to hold the Eagles to 10 points. The perfect storm of good fortune and the type of scenario that is ripe for another Lions letdown. But this time was different. And for once in this harrowing 2016 campaign, the defense of the Detroit Lions did enough to win, forcing two late turnovers and sending the Eagles back to Philly to drown themselves in tears and cheese whiz.
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 10, 2016
Both of those late turnovers were forced by cornerback Darius ‘Big Play’ Slay. The first was a fumble by Eagles RB, Ryan Mathews, and the second was a great interception on an ill-advised deep ball thrown by rookie QB, Carson Wentz. It was the type of deep ball that you can see beating the Lions in your nightmares. Except Slay made a great play on the ball and Nelson Agholor wasn’t even looking for it. This was the first game this season where Slay has shown the type of talent that got him a fat contract extension over the summer. And by finally showing that top-tier talent, he may have saved his team’s season and his head coach’s job.
One of those things makes me very happy. The other, not so much.
If the Lions had lost this one, after once again holding a sizable lead, then that would have been curtains on the 2016 season. The team is still dangerously close to unraveling and there are considerable issues involving injuries, depth, discipline, and overall talent on the roster. But with that win over the Eagles, this team lives to fight another day. And the same goes for their coach, Jim Caldwell.
Jim Caldwell has underwhelmed as head coach of the Detroit Lions and he seems destined to be relieved of his duties by 1st year general manager, Bob Quinn. The different issues facing this team can and should be placed on the shoulders of Caldwell. Lack of concentration, sloppy play, guys giving up on plays, failure to make adjustments in game. These are things that should be corrected after a few games, yet they seem to keep popping up. When it keeps happening you have to think that it’s systematic. Most would agree that Caldwell should go, but while saving the Lions season, did Darius Slay save Caldwell’s job too?
It seems unlikely, but the Lions are great at doing just enough, or just little enough, to fuck everything up. Doing well enough to justify keeping Jim Caldwell would be a typical Lions move that would continue to keep the team mired in mediocrity for years to come. Through five games, it’s obvious that Caldwell is not the guy to take this team to the next level. I would never hope for my team to lose, and while I still hope they can get it together and make a playoff run, I sure hope it doesn’t save Caldwell’s job.
This Lions team has proven that they have the talent to win. They have been competitive in every game this season, despite missing some of their biggest playmakers for a majority of the games. They will be getting some of those guys back soon and that should make them better, but this inconsistency will be their downfall in the end. That’s on Jim Caldwell. So while Darius Slay and his teammates may have saved their head coach for the time being, they won’t be able to overcome his inadequacies for the entire season, and eventually he’ll be gone.