This week marks the 60th anniversary of William Clay Ford becoming the majority owner of the Detroit Lions on the same day JFK was assassinated. That inauspicious timing suits the Lions franchise. The Kennedy family curse has nothing on the Ford family’s. Between 1952 and 1962, Detroit won three championships and the league’s fifth best winning percentage. Since then, the Lions have been stuck in a never-ending spiral.
In his final 948 games of Ford family ownership, they posted a .426 winning percentage. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars lost more often than the Lions. So you can understand why there was so much joy pouring out of The Motor City during Detroit’s first 8-2 start to the season since November of 1962.
On Sunday, the Lions wandered around like an amnesiac who forgot they were the division leaders for 56 minutes. But as soon as the light bulb went off, Chicago’s incompetence kicked in. With 3:59 left, the Bears had a 96 percent chance to win according to ESPN analysis.
On the next drive, Jared Goff got busy. In 1:16 of game time, he connected with Jameson Williams on a 32-yard touchdown strike. The Bears did what they do best on the ensuing drive by playing for the No. 1 pick, not picking up a first down and using only eight seconds.
With surgical precision, Goff proceeded to slice open the Bears on a methodical drive and removed their hearts on another touchdown drive that put the Lions ahead. For more measure, Bears tight end Aidan Hutchinson tackled Darnell Wright, stripped Justin Fields and deflected the ball into the end zone for a safety. His presence never even registered with Fields.
The safety ended a four-game hitting streak for Hutchinson that lasted nearly five games and made Detroit nervous. But beneath the surface, he was third in the league in pressure created behind only Micah Parsons and Maxx Crosby. That the Lions look like they have all the answers at a time when the Cleveland Browns are 7-3 highlights just how upside down this year has been.
The Lions’ best winning percentage since 1962 was their 12-4 season in 1991 and even that was dampened by the memory of starting guard Mike Utley’s paralysis. The Lions erupted for 38 points in an impressive win over Aikman’s Cowboys in the Divisional Round for the Lions’ most recent playoff win. That team had one of the biggest performance upsets ever seen, losing 35-3 to the San Francisco 49ers, blanking the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins 45-0 in Week 1, and then Redskins got shredded in the NFC Championship Game. The 31-year stretch since the Lions last made the playoffs is the NFL’s longest drought at nine years.
There hasn’t been much to celebrate in Detroit Lions lore. Coupled with Minnesota’s loss on Sunday Night Football, the Lions are in a commanding position to run away with their fourth division title in team history and first since 1993.
Detroit’s brand is in the toilet, but on the field, these Lions have avoided the injury bug that has plagued the organization. They avoided the trap plays, kept Goff upright, and Josh Dobbs’ magic maybe run out. All that’s left to do is avoid complacency and dodge the typical Leos.
Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebral sports text