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NFL

I Regret The Lions

Jared Goff fumbles
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

There’s a painting that I’ve seen around a bit online. I think about it often. It’s a frog, in bed but awake, with a lamp shining down on it, looking out the window. “Man…” the frog says.

The frog is subject to many interpretations. The frog could be dreading a long day tomorrow. The frog could be taking in the aftermath of a break-up. Or the frog, in my mind, could be going to bed having just watched the Detroit Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

This was a real bummer of a game from the Detroit side (the only side I care about). The Lions went step-for-step with the Packers through the first half, taking a 17-14 lead into the break after Austin Seibert hit a 43-yard field goal in the last moments of the second quarter. But everything went wrong for the Lions after halftime, as Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay outscored them 21-0 to cruise to a 35-17 win.

Here are two especially bad Lions moments. First, after Rodgers led a touchdown drive at the start of the third to go up 21-17, Goff and the Lions found themselves with a fourth-and-1 at the Packers’ 25. Head coach Dan Campbell’s aggression in these situations—they were 2-for-5 on fourth downs last week against the Niners—saw the team pass the ball instead of kicking the field goal, or even calling a run play. But Jared Goff, rather than finding a wide open Amon-Ra St. Brown in the middle of the field, tried and failed to force a tough pass in to Quintez Cephus on his left.

Rodgers took the ball from there and, again, led his offense down the field for a touchdown. And then he was able to do it yet again, because on the first play of the ensuing Lions drive, Goff mishandled the snap in the rain and gave the ball right back. It was all a formality after that.

It feels pretty silly, in retrospect, to have expected more than this Lions defeat on the road at Lambeau. But, sorry, I kinda did! The Packers looked horrendous in their first game of the year, losing 38-3 to a Saints team that, this week, lost 26-7. The Lions, meanwhile, started poorly against the 49ers, but they at the very least outplayed their opponents in the second half, turning a hopeless 38-10 deficit into a tight 41-33 loss. You obviously didn’t expect Aaron Rodgers to lay two eggs in a row, especially coming back home in primetime, but the fact that the Lions got so thoroughly trampled in the second half pretty effectively dashes any sparks of optimism that Campbell and his kneecap-biting clump dogs could will themselves above basement-level expectations through sheer scrappery and grittitude.

Even outside of his two turnovers (plus one fumble that got recovered), Goff has proven to be a significant downgrade from Matt Stafford, who’s now 2-0 in Los Angeles and, most strikingly, possesses so much more arm strength than his successor in Motown. Yes, the weather was bad. But in a game where the Lions were trailing in the fourth and needed quick scores, Goff and his coaches still showed a total inability or unwillingness to throw deep. His one completion that traveled more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage came just a minute into the game, and, with his team trailing every time he touched the ball in the second half, literally zero of his completions were caught more than 10 yards away.

But that’s the Lions, I guess. Getting mad at their failure to make a comeback in Green Bay is like getting mad at a fly for failing to find the window you’ve opened for it. All you can really do is say, “Man…”