The NFL is big time media, and as such there are all sorts of storylines for every game. Often this is a reflection of the bigger players playing the game or the ramifications for the game going forward into the season. Sometimes this is a different though, and a storyline is about the past….something the teams have done to disrespect the other or revenge for an upset so on and so forth. Usually this storyline doesn't have much meaning once the first kickoff flies and the teams start playing football….but when it does and the story takes on a life of its own bad thing usually happens for one of the two teams.
The Detroit Lions may run into one of those unique moments this week when they come into Lambeau Field, smarting over a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts. It all starts with a fun fact….the Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since December 15, 1991. Now years in the NFL is a bit like dog years, where five or ten years is an eternity….but a winning streak like the Packers have had against the Lions at home is something rather unheard of.
To give you an idea of how long ago it was when the Lions beat the Packers at Lambeau here are a few interesting things about that game way back then. The Packers starting quarterback was Mike Tomczak. The leading rusher for the Packers was Darrell Thompson. The leading receiver was Sterling Sharpe, and the next leading receiver was Vince Workman. Most telling of all though, Jason Hanson was not on the Lions. The Packers head coach was Lindy Infante.
Now this is not to say that it’s impossible for the Lions to beat the Packers in Lambeau. History tends to repeat itself, but it’s not something that is an absolute. Rather, this is one of those storylines that seems to get into the head of the team. No one on this team, and probably few if any in the entire organization, have been a part of a team that has beaten the Packers in Lambeau….or even in the state of Wisconsin. That sort of losing streak is something can get into the head of a player, team, or head coach. It is something that can become a self fulfilling prophecy….and a potential stumbling block if hardships arrive for the team on the road. Keep in mind that it’s tough enough to win on the road in the NFL without any sort of extra pressure or mind games that can creep up for a team.
In order for the Lions to break this historically significant losing streak they are going to have to play disciplined football. They are going to need steady and mature leadership coming from the coach on down. Can they do this? Sure, but discipline and focus has not been the calling card of the Lions under Jim Schwartz. Even Schwartz himself has shown an uneven temperament with his sideline antics, handshake drama, and willingness to make snarky remarks about players in press conferences. The talent and matchups are there for the Lions, but overcoming the shadows of the past seems much more akin to last year’s team than this year’s squad.
The ability of a venue is one of the few areas where fans can truly affect the outcome of a game. The fan, and franchise’s, ability to create an atmosphere that demoralizes an opponent is often underrated, but real occurrence on the field. The Lions seem to have been snake bit at Lambeau for the past couple decades and it’s going to take a mental toughness for them to overcome it. If they can, then the game is going to be that much harder for the Packers.