Nothing ever comes easy for Detroit, does it? After a 33-28 victory over the Saints in New Orleans, Detroit is 9-3 for the first time since 1962. But, as expected, Detroit took a winding and uncertain road to get that ninth victory.
The Lions roared (sorry) their way through the first half of the season and seemed primed to reverse their woeful Thanksgiving record. But then Detroit reverted to its usual form and lost to an otherwise-struggling Packers team last Thursday.
Flash forward 10 days. Detroit threw down 21 points in the first seven minutes of Sunday's game against New Orleans, and all appeared back on track. But the Saints defense toughened up, Derek Carr found his touch, and the Saints drew to within three points.
Detroit appeared to retake the momentum for good with a brilliant Jameson Williams Superman-esque leap into the end zone:
But after Carr went down with a range of ailments — official reports described it as a combination of concussion protocol and shoulder/back injuries — Jameis Winston stepped in and led New Orleans on another touchdown drive to close to within five points. But Detroit managed to hang on for victory formation.
In grim news, a sideline official suffered what appeared to be a devastating leg injury midway through the second quarter when the Saints' Alvin Kamara rolled into him. (Here's the video, viewer discretion very heavily advised.)
Detroit came into the weekend 2 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota for the division lead. Given that the Lions will play the Vikings in two of their final five remaining games, the division is still very much in Detroit's hands. Also on the slate: Chicago, Denver and Dallas. Catching Philadelphia for the conference lead and first-round bye could be tough, but Detroit still has a realistic chance of finishing second in the NFC ... which would qualify as a miracle as recently as a year ago. But these are different days in Detroit.