Raise your hand if you understand the Lions.
OK, no hands.
There might not be a more mystifying team in the league, as they present a series of indications they can be good, while consistently failing to get there.
The Lions are one of three teams in the league’s top 10 in team offense and defense. They brought back the bulk of last year’s playoff team (39 of 53), including
the coaching staff, so there’s continuity.
They have one of the league’s best defensive lines, and one of the top three or four receivers in the game.
So why are they 4-5 again?
“Obviously, it takes all three phases to get this thing going,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said, via FOXSports.com’s Alex Marvez. “One week, it will be the offense doing good. The next week, it will be the defense. Sometimes, all three phases do good.
“We have to find a way to put it all together. When we do, we’re rolling.”
They lead the league in fourth-quarter scoring (118 points), but they’ve been outscored 129-95 in the first three, often giving themselves too deep a hole to get out of.
“You can look at our slow starts a lot of different ways,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We start slow, but the team battles and finds a way to stay in it until the very end. Whether you’re scoring early or putting it away late, [the games] all count the same.
“We don’t really worry about style points or grading on a curve. The only thing is our record. The last two Super Bowl winners were 7-7 going into the last two weeks of the year. There’s plenty of time for us to do something, but our margins are a lot thinner when you’re 4-5.”
Of course, it’s reasonable to wonder if they’re mature enough to build upon last year’s success, after an offseason of all the wrong kind of headlines.
“Last year was the first playoff berth [since 1999], and we’ve got to handle success,” Tulloch said. “We’ve got to find a way to build on that and know that every year is different. You’ve got to stay consistent in this league and keep striving and never get comfortable.”
They can’t do that, as Sunday’s game against Green Bay triggers a tough finish to the season, though they do play five of their last seven at home.