Thursday afternoon was nothing new for the Detroit Lions. The Lions played a superior team and found themselves hanging around with them. Detroit even had a lead late in the game.

However, they fell apart. The Lions lost to the Buffalo Bills 28-25 in a thrilling Thanksgiving game. And sure, there were a lot of positives to take away from their performance.

The Lions, who were 1-6 at one point this season, nearly beat a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Their defense showed a lot of promise despite missing important pieces. Young players such as James Houston stepped up. The former Jackson State star had two sacks in his NFL debut.

But Detroit fans know all too well how frustrating these “moral victory” games are. Because as great as moral victories can be, they don’t win championships. And the Lions, historically, have failed to build upon them.

Familiar territory

Even before current head coach Dan Campbell took over, the Lions could hang with Super Bowl contenders. In 2018, Matt Patricia’s first year on the job, Detroit hung around and even beat legitimate contenders.

They even beat the Super Bowl champions that year. Patricia’s first win came against the New England Patriots on Sunday night football. A week later, they came within a field goal of defeating the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite these great performances, the Lions failed to build upon them. They finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs completely. And it only got worse for the Patricia-led Lions.

In 2019, the Lions once again held the eventual Super Bowl champion close. They faced the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, in a battle of early-season undefeated teams. Once again, the Lions had a lead late.

However, it fell apart. Patrick Mahomes burned Detroit’s defense with his legs, and a one-yard Darrel Williams touchdown run sealed a Lions defeat.

After that game, Detroit won just one game. They defeated the New York Giants 31-26 in Week 8. Besides that, Detroit lost every game.

In Patricia’s final year, the Lions didn’t really have that fight. Their closest result against a legitimate contender was a 35-29 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Detroit was blown out at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16.

Perhaps that is why Patricia was fired after a blowout loss to the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving. And it’s why Campbell has focused in on making the Lions a team that never quits on the field.

“Same Old Lions”

There is a term Lions fans are surely familiar with. “Same Old Lions” is often used to describe the Lions when they give their fans a glimmer of hope, only for it to be dashed. It’s essentially a condensed way of saying, “Nothing is different. You are still… you.”

However, if there is any head coach that can make the case that these Lions aren’t the same, it’s Campbell. There are signs of change, on and off the field.

For starters, the culture around the team is a lot different. These players no longer expect to go out and lose. And Detroit isn’t driving their players into a depression.

And yet, we have seen these signs of change before. Detroit never built upon that progress. Campbell, right now, has his team in a position to confirm that things are different.

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The answer is simple, yet easier said than done. All Detroit need to do is just win. They take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 4. Given how they’ve played recently, that’s a game they should win.

In fact, the toughest game on their remaining schedule is right after that Jacksonville one. Former Lions tight end TJ Hockenson returns to Detroit as the Vikings are in town.

Detroit has games against the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and New York Jets. These are winnable games given how they have played recently.

Do the Lions need to win all of these games? No. But Detroit needs to come away with a few wins from this remaining schedule.

Those Same Old Lions would fall apart and stumble to the end of the season. However, these Lions aren’t those Same Old Lions. Taylor Decker echoed this sentiment after the loss to the Bills.

Talk is cheap, however. You can say things are different all you want. What Detroit needs to do right now is prove to themselves, their fans, and the world that they have turned the corner.