Detroit Lions similar to 2019 look to rebound from a tough opening game

(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

One year ago, the Detroit Lions were heading into the second week of the season in much the same way they are this year: having to rebound from a game in which they failed to secure a victory.

It is tough to forget the heartbreaking details of the first Detroit Lions game of 2019. Against an inferior Arizona Cardinals team, the Lions, favored by three points, immediately started the fourth quarter with a touchdown to put themselves solidly in the lead with 18 points.

Three consecutive scores by the Cardinals (two touchdowns and a field goal) and the Lions were suddenly struggling to hold on to the lead. After trading field goals in overtime, the teams settled for a tie. The Cardinals were elated, while the Lions were gutted.

Fast forward a year, and the Lions find themselves in a similar situation, almost eerily so. Hosting a Bears team they should have beaten—they were again 3-point favorites—the Lions entered the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead only to give up three straight touchdowns, which led eventually to the loss. In both games, instead of playing to win, the Lions were simply playing not to lose.

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You can tell a lot about a team by how they bounce back from a tough loss. A good team can learn from the game, use it as motivation for the future. A lousy team might never recover. Last year’s team was a bit of the former category. They followed up the devastating tie by gritting out a home win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Offensively, they actually played worse than the week prior, but the defense kept them in the game, holding the Chargers to a meager 10 points. No, for last year’s team, the season was not irrecoverable until Week 6—against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Which leads us to this week’s game; the Lions are playing the Green Bay Packers, a team that has won the NFC North six times in the last decade, in Wisconsin, a state in which they have won exactly three times since 1992. The good news is those three wins came over the previous five seasons, and last year should have been a fourth. With all the similarities between the two years—being three-point favorites to open the season, giving up nearly an identical lead in the same amount of time—is there anything to glean about the upcoming matchup?

The Lions beat the Chargers last year 13-10 in Week 2. The Chargers, however, did not end up being a great team. They finished 5-11 and finished last in the AFC West. On the other hand, the Packers looked excellent in their first outing this year, putting up 43 points on what could be a decent Minnesota team. The other key difference is that the Lions had the luxury of hosting the Chargers a year ago. This year, they have to take their dejected feelings on the road to a place they have had recent trouble.

So, maybe comparing the openings of last season with this one is not exactly apples to apples. At the very least, though, their rebound win last year can provide a glimmer of hope for Sunday’s game, and any bit of confidence taken into Lambeau Field is a good thing.

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In 2019, the Detroit Lions responded to their first experience of adversity with a win. Unfortunately, repeating that performance in 2020 will be a much more challenging task. Challenging, but not impossible.