Pat Caputo: For better or worse, Lions in playoff hunt

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It was wacky, goofy, crazy and nonsensical, a combination of the NFL at its best and worst.

Its best because it put us on the edge of our seats until the very end. Its worst because there were so many bizarre calls and situations it was difficult to distinguish whether the best team won.

Then again, it was the Lions and the Falcons, two squads that have made blowing leads standard procedure. So perhaps we should make it the “least worst” team triumphed instead.

But the quirks this time went the Lions’ way for a change as they took home a 23-22 victory.

It was sealed, perhaps fittingly, by a penalty-induced 48-yard extra point by Matt Prater, who had uncharacteristically missed a 46-yard field goal try earlier.

It seemed subjective the clock stopped with three seconds remaining for a questionable review to give the Lions one last shot for the tying touchdown. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was tackled hard deep in Atlanta territory during the first half. It seemed to be a legal tackle but was nonetheless flagged for roughing. As a result, the Lions scored a TD instead of a field goal.

Hey, the Lions were glad to signal “touchdown” when Falcons’ running back Todd Gurley scored the go-ahead TD with a little more than a minute remaining, trying mightily to stay out of the end zone in the process.

Like always, it left us trying to distinguish where the Lions exactly lie.

On one hand, the Lions are 3-3 and Sunday’s game can be categorized as a “character” win.

On the other, are the Lions just teasing us again with a Stafford-engineered come-from-behind victory over a struggling team? It just sort of keeps them in the postseason hunt when it’s obvious the Lions aren’t genuine contenders.

I thought it was Stafford’s best game of the season - by far. He made some brilliant throws, particularly laser-shot fastballs into tight windows. He also led a key drive for a field goal late in the first half and didn’t turn over the ball.

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay’s contract drive continued. He made several outstanding plays, especially an acrobatic sideline catch in the first half, and corralling the ball on the final play before Stafford’s game-winning TD pass, as time expired, to T.J. Hockenson.

The Falcons have a good offense.
Quarterback Matt Ryan had a big game statistically. Receiver Julio Jones is still a load even while hobbling and Gurley, even though he has slowed down, showed what he is made of by gutting out an earlier TD run. The Lions’ defense held its own until late in the game. It’s still not stellar. The Falcons are even more lacking the ability to hold a lead than the Lions at this stage, though.

The Lions were opportunists Sunday, and that’s not a bad thing unless you want them to tank so there are major changes. If Stafford gets hot, he can carry this team against subpar opponents.

We’ve seen it many times in the past.
It’s always proven to be misleading. Perhaps Sunday’s victory will ultimately prove it again.

Little definitive can be discerned from this Lions’ victory other than there is still hope for this season, as minimal as it may be.