When the Philadelphia Eagles connected on a 70-yard pass after a defensive breakdown, I was warming up my fingers to scold the offense. "This is why you cannot afford to wait until the fourth quarter," I was ready to lecture. "You let a team hang around for the first three quarters, and all it takes is one mistake, one play, and your comeback will be all for not. It happened in Tennessee, it happened against Minnesota."
It's like I had completely forgotten everything else that has happened in the past year. Against St. Louis, the Lions drove 80 yards in 1:55 to win the game. In Tennessee, Detroit came back from down 14 with 1:16 left(!). Erasing a ten point deficit on the road with 5:18 left is the Lions equivalent to kicking an extra point. It's expected. It's almost a given. But every week, I'm fooled. I'm convinced that this week will be the week that the offense doesn't falter for three quarters, but four. And nearly every week, I'm wrong.
But the question isn't how the Lions continue to make these miraculous comebacks, but why do they always seem to find themselves in these situations? Why is the Lions offense stuck in neutral until the clock hits 3:30 PM EST? Why can't the Lions punch it in the endzone consistently? Why are the Lions scoring ten points per game less than in 2011 with an almost identical roster?
And I have no idea what the answers to these questions are. During the third quarter, I turned to my friends and asked what the Lions need to upgrade on offense to fix these problems. No one had an answer. The offensive line was playing more than adequately (0 sacks, 4.9 yards/carry). The receivers are young and full of talent. Tony Scheffler can still make plays, and Brandon Pettigrew is a first down machine. Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell are more than serviceable. And there are only a handful of quarterbacks I would want on my team over Matthew Stafford.
So where does that leave us? Confused, angry, frustrated, baffled, without someone to blame, but ultimately relieved. It's maddening and thrilling at the same time. It makes no sense, but it's so familiar that it makes perfect sense.
I want to say that everything will be fine, and that the Lions will eventually get all the gears working at the same time. I want to say that the offense will soon be the well-oiled machine that we saw against San Diego last year. But I can't say that in good faith. The inconsistencies are so consistent that it's hard to even call them inconsistencies and not faults. And I feel a lot of it falls on Stafford's shoulders. Maybe he's not the golden goose we all thought he was. Maybe the issues he's facing aren't injury-related or early game nerves, but the inaccuracy problems that some draft gurus warned about.
But then I shake my head and snap out of it. How can I call Stafford inaccurate when he's dropping bombs right into Titus' breadbasket or hitting Scheffler in stride while running to his right or flinging a ball into the endzone where only Nate Burleson could grab it?
But then I remember all the plays left on the field. The seam route to Pettigrew that was overthrown. The third down pass to a wide-open Burleson that he led too far. The poor reads and the open receivers unseen.
It's all overwhelming and frustrating and I keep repeating myself, but that's because my head is running in circles. I can't decide if things are going to be fine or if the Lions are doomed to a season of inconsistencies. I just don't know.
So where does that leave us? What was the point of all this? I have no idea. I'm sitting here after another miraculous* comeback not knowing how to feel. The team is an enigma and the rest of the season could go in an infinite amount of directions. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know who is to blame or who I should deify if things go bad/good. I'm just sitting here watching all the questions pile up while the answer box remains empty. I'm exhausted. I'm confused.
*a word I've used so many times, it's rendered the word "miracle" meaningless