Detroit Lions are the definition of clutch
The crowd roars as the ball is snapped and quarterback Matthew Stafford drops back, feigning a handoff to the running back before turning quickly and firing off the play-action pass.
After mere milliseconds the football settles hard into the hands of tight end Brandon Pettigrew who was wide open behind the defence on a slant route and hustles in untouched for the 18-yard touchdown, giving the Detroit Lions the 14-10 lead. It was a lead they would hold on to in a 24-13 victory over the Chicago Bears, bringing a comprehensive end to the NFL’s fifth week.
In five weeks, many odd things have transpired but probably none more so than one statistic that has shocked the whole league. There are currently two undefeated NFL teams, one being the reigning Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, who defeated the Atlanta Falcons 25-14 on Sunday.
However, the second team is quite startling considering that their current 5-0 record was projected to be 0-5 at this point of the season by experts.
This team, with a combined record of 8-40 in the last three years (not including the 2011 regular season), and the only team to lose all their games in the 16-game format in 2008, have so far been a puzzle that teams are struggling to solve. They are the Detroit Lions.
So what has launched the Lions to their best season start since 1956? It isn’t the running game, which hasn’t put forward the most stellar of performances, currently sitting 24th in the league despite running back Jahvid Best’s career high 163-yard game against the Chicago Bears on Monday.
It isn’t seventh-ranked their passing game led by 2009 1st overall pick Matthew Stafford, which though rather impressive at times, is not the reason for their perfect record.
It isn’t their stellar defence either which sits at an impressive fourth in average-points-allowed despite losing the services of highly rated defensive tackle Nick Fairley, drafted 13th overall in this year’s draft, who sat out the Lion’s first four games with a fractured left foot and gained his NFL debut on Monday’s victory.
The reason for the Detroit Lion’s extraordinary start is all of those things at the right time. The reason is clutch timing. They make the right passes at the right time, the right rushes at the right time, and the right defensive plays when they need to be made.
It is because of this clutch timing and their determination that the Detroit Lions have managed to pull themselves out of fourth-quarter deficits of ten points or more on two separate occasions this season.
Those are two averted losses by the clutch plays of a team that knows the taste of defeat, and pours their heart and soul into never tasting it again. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine that without wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr.’s fourth-quarter touchdown catch in triple coverage against the Dallas Cowboys in week four, or veteran kicker Jason Hanson’s four completed field goals against the Minnesota Vikings in week three, the Detroit Lions would currently be sitting at 3-2 or worse.
But those reasons alone are why the unlikely Lions are 5-0. It is those kind of clutch plays that other teams in the NFL are going to have to be wary of should they have a chance to tame the marauding Detroit team that will look to continue their dominance in week six against the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.