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Eric Goska column: Lions have chance to tie 50-year-old road victory record

Dec. 30, 2011
 

Homesick

Teams with 30 or fewer regular-season road wins since the start of the 2001 season.

Record | Team | Pct.

15-72 | Lions | .172

25-63 | Cardinals | .284

28-60 | Browns | .318

28-59 | Bills | .322

26-54 | Texans | .325

29-59 | 49ers | .330

29-59 | Rams | .330

29-59 | Vikings | .330

30-58 | Raiders | .341

More

How long has it been?

Vince Lombardi, Weeb Ewbank, Bob Waterfield, Frank (Pop) Ivy, Norm Van Brocklin and George Halas coached the opposition. Milwaukee County Stadium, Memorial Stadium, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Busch Stadium, Metropolitan Stadium and Wrigley Field hosted the action.

Fifty years have passed since the Detroit Lions last won six regular-season road games in one season. On Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Packersí longtime rival has a chance to tie the franchise record for most wins away from home.

With Alex Karras, Joe Schmidt and others prowling the field, the Lions defeated the Packers, Colts, Rams, Cardinals, Vikings and Bears in that order to go 6-0-1 away from Tiger Stadium in 1961. Itís the only season in which Detroit won six games on the road.

The intervening decades have not been good to the Lions in terms of road victories. To say Detroit has struggled outside the comforts of home is an understatement.

Detroit managed but two or fewer road victories in 27 of the last 50 years. It came up winless six times.

The Lionsí losing ways increased as 1961 faded into the past. From 1972 through 2010, the team produced just two winning seasons (1993 and 2000). Since 2001, their NFL-worst road record is a stunningly bad 15-72 (.172).

Perhaps the best way to sum up their traveling travails is to cite the record book. Under most consecutive road games lost, the Lions take not just the top, but the top two spots, having lost 26 straight (2007-10) and 24 in a row (2001-03).

This year, Detroit has done an about-face. In Jim Schwartzís third season as coach, the team won its first four road games, then shook off two losses with a stunning 28-27 victory over Oakland on Dec. 18.

Thatís five road wins, and the Lions came from behind in each of them. Four victories were by seven or fewer points, a first for the team since 1993.

Showing they were no longer pushovers, the Lions pounced on opening day, overcoming a seven-point deficiency to defeat the Buccaneers 27-20 in Tampa. The win was just the seventh time in the last 25 years the team won its road opener.

That was merely a warm-up. In Minnesota, the Lions came back from 20 down to win 26-23. In Dallas, they were 24 in the hole before shocking the Cowboys 34-30.

At the Oakland Coliseum, they charged back from a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Even in their 45-10 blowout of the Broncos, the Lions were behind 3-0 before embarking on a scoring spree.

Detroit has rallied under differing circumstances. It has won without a running game (20 yards on 19 carries in Minnesota) and with a porous defense (477 yards surrendered in Oakland). It has prevailed under duress (five sacks in the Metrodome) and with limited access to the ball (23 minutes, 21 seconds of possession time in Dallas).

Two constants can be found in the comebacks: a hot Matthew Stafford and limited turnovers. That combination has proven formidable.

In their five wins, the Lions are plus-six in turnover differential. Staffordís passer rating is 105.0.

But in rally mode (action that occurred after Detroit encountered its greatest deficit in each game), the Lions have been even better. When roaring back, they have been without turnovers and Staffordís passer rating is 131.2.

In seeking their sixth road victory, the Lions engage a foe that has rebuffed them for years. The team hasnít won in Wisconsin since 1991.

In that time, Detroit has been outscored 537 to 276 in 19 regular-season trips to the Badger State. Its passer rating of 55.7 pales next to the 97.6 of the Packers. Theyíve been held to two or fewer TDs 16 times.

Green Bay, meanwhile, has won 12 straight regular-season games at Lambeau Field and 18 of its last 19. Its dominance at home is beginning to approach that of the Packers of the mid-1990s.

For the Lions to earn a win will take some doing. They have won but 10 times in Green Bay since Lambeau Field opened in 1957.

Still, Sunday might be the day they break through. Last year Detroit was a whisker short falling 28-26, and in this seasonís finale, Green Bay may rest its starters after already wrapping up home-field advantage in the playoffs.



Extra point

A victory Sunday would be the ninth consecutive for the Packers in regular-season finales ó a team record. It would also be six in a row for coach Mike McCarthy, another record, ahead of the five straight by Vince Lombardi (1959-1963) and Mike Holmgren (1994-98).

Regular-season series

Overall: Green Bay leads 90-65-7.

At Lambeau Field: Packers lead 27-10-3.

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (41-21 overall; 6-1 vs. Detroit).

Lions: Matthew Stafford (13-15; 1-1 vs. Green Bay).

Once a Lion, now a Packer

There are no former Lions on the Packersí roster.

Once a Packer, now a Lion

Defensive tackle Corey Williams (2004-07) is a former Packer.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
575 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1017 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1271 votes

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports