NEW ORLEANS I’m not a fan of the Detroit Lions. Never have been, probably never will be. But what they’ve done this season is simply amazing.
They are the Houdini of the gridiron, the 60-Minute Men, Comeback Kings and Kardiac Kids all rolled into one.
They are the gum opposing teams step on and can’t shake free, the gnat that gets squished on the windshield of a speeding car but somehow lives to torment again, the headless snake that won’t die.
Well, maybe that’s a stretch but you get my drift.
When you play the Lions, you better bring your breakfast, lunch and dinner pails and be prepared for a hard day’s work.
They have no quit in them. They refuse to lose.
They are 7-4 and currently lead the Minnesota Vikings (6-6) and Green Bay Packers (5-6) in the NFC North.
In all 11 games, the Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter, and every game has been decided by seven points or fewer.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been the Lions’ “Mane Man,’’ orchestrating seven fourth-quarter comebacks, tying him with the Manning brothers, Peyton (2009) and Eli (’11), for most comebacks in one season.
And Stafford has five more chances to make the record his own, beginning with Sunday”s important clash at noon against the New Orleans Saints (5-6) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Lions may not be able to change water into wine but they’ve had an uncanny knack for turning losses into wins this season, the latest coming Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field in downtown Motown. Following an interception by cornerback Darius Slay with 38 seconds left, Matt Prater provided the exclamation point with a winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
The challenge facing the Lions on Sunday is the same challenge that faces most teams when they play the Saints -- outscore quarterback Drew Brees and his 30-point offense.
The challenge facing New Orleans it seems will be to establish a lead, keep the pedal to the metal and put ample space between the teams going into the fourth quarter and beyond, if necessary.
And then brace for an expected fight to the finish.
That’s where the resurgent Saints defense under NFL “Coordinator of the Year’’ candidate Dennis Allen comes into play. It’ll be incumbent upon his best 11 to make sure the Lions don’t pull another rabbit out of their hat, at least not on this Sunday.
Incidentally, the Saints’ defense has climbed to 26th league-wide in total defense, yielding a season-low 370.5 yards. That is one spot higher than the Saints defense held when entering the 2009 playoffs and eventually won Super Bowl XLIV.
Since we’re talking Super Bowl, the Mannings finished their epic comeback seasons in 2009 and ’11 with trips to the Super Bowl; Peyton and the Indianapolis Colts losing to New Orleans in ’09 and Eli and the New York Giants beating the New England Patriots in ’11.
I’m not saying Stafford and the Lions have what it takes to reach Super Bowl LI.
But one would be wrong to count them out.
These Lions are a different breed of cat. But like the domestic kind, they appear to have nine lives.