New-look Lions don't dwell on losing streak
New-look Lions don't dwell on losing streak
Detroit's slide stands at 18 games, but it's a mere one game in for the team's overhauled regime.
By MARK CRAIG, Star Tribune
Last update: September 19, 2009 - 8:46 AM
NFL WEEK 2 VIKINGS AT DETROIT
Noon Sunday • Ford Field
TV: Ch. 9 (1130-AM, 100.3-FM)
Nov. 22 could be a good day for the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a not-so-good day for the 2008-09 Detroit Lions.
That's when the Lions could end the expansion Bucs' 32-year reign over the NFL's record for consecutive losses.
The Buccaneers went 0-26 before their first victory. They went 0-14 in 1976 and were the only team in NFL history to lose every game for an entire season until last year's Lions went two worse at 0-16.
Yes, there will be challenges to the streak over the next nine games. The Lions play the Rams at home on Nov. 1 and the Browns at home on what could be the record-setting day.
But you know what they say. You can't lose your 27th consecutive game until you lose your 19th consecutive game.
No. 19 could come Sunday against the Vikings (1-0) at Ford Field. The same Vikings who beat the Lions twice last year by a total of only six points. The Vikings are a 10-point favorite.
A Detroit loss would move the Lions ahead of the 1972-73 Houston Oilers into a tie for second on the list of most consecutive losses. The Chicago Cardinals (1942-43, 1945) and the Oakland Raiders (1961-62) share second place.
One would think so much negative history would be mentally draining for the Lions. But coaches and players say it isn't because, well, most of the team is new from top to bottom.
The Lions overhauled their front office. They replaced coach Rod Marinelli with Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The offensive and defensive coordinators are new. Ten other assistants are new. And 31 players are new, including 17 of 25 on defense.
"[The past] is really irrelevant to what we are doing here," Schwartz said. "We can't bear the burden for what happened here in the past."
Last week, however, the new-look Lions looked a lot like last year's Lions.
They fell behind 14-0 quickly and lost 45-27 at New Orleans. Playing from behind, the offense ran for only 33 yards on 20 carries while rookie No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford completed only 43.2 percent of his passes with no touchdowns, three interceptions and a 27.4 passer rating.
Defensively, the Lions gave up 511 yards, six passing touchdowns and 157 rushing yards.
Same old Lions?
"I don't want to compare it to 'same old Lions,' " Schwartz said. "All I know is what we are this year. We fought back, hung in the game. It's hard to start down 14-0 in the first quarter."
The Lions obviously think the 21-year-old Stafford is the guy with the skill and mental makeup to lead them out of this mess.
"It doesn't take Bill Walsh or Vince Lombardi to see that he's got a great arm, quick release, all of those physical things," Schwartz said. "Where he impressed us most was his demeanor, his knowledge of the game, his intelligence. You have to be comfortable being in the skin of a quarterback. You have to be able to let things roll off without letting them affect you. You're going to throw interceptions. What's your demeanor after that? You have to be able to get along with a lot of different kinds of people. You're the first person people look to when you win or lose. It takes a special kind of personality."
Stafford was asked to name the longest losing streak he has experienced in any sport.
"Probably in baseball sometime," he said. "In football, we had a two-gamer. A two-game losing streak."
He said this year's Lions team doesn't feel the burden of having lost 18 in a row. And, for the record, it has been 636 days since the Lions beat Kansas City 25-20 at home on Dec. 23, 2007.
"Guys out here look at it as our freshman season," Stafford said. "Last year doesn't count toward making the playoffs or getting a lot of wins this year."
Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield was on a Bills team that lost six consecutive games while going 3-13 in 2001.
"I remember how bad that felt, so I can't even imagine 18 in a row," Winfield said. "It's a franchise that's hungry for a win. We can't take them lightly."
If the Vikings win Sunday and the Lions keep losing, the Nov. 15 rematch at the Metrodome could become a significant game in NFL history. It could be the day the Lions tie the 1976-77 Bucs.