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We need to talk about the Lions

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Hardly the doormat, the Detroit Lions are riding a six-game winning streak against the Bears, and have a better record than we do since our trip to the NFC title game six seasons ago. They’ve made the playoffs twice in that time to our... none. It’s time we acknowledge them as a legitimate threat to our psyche.

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions
For three seasons, this photo has summed up the relationship between the Lions and Bears.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Back in September 2013, I interviewed fans of every NFC North team to learn the degree to which they were scared of every other NFC North team. At the time, the Bears were 3-0 in Year 1 of Trestman and three days away from playing the 2-1 Lions.

Not only was our record better, but we were riding a three-game winning streak over Detroit, with a 13-3 record in our last 16 games. That was our record in the Super Bowl season. Take your feeling of domination and control from 2006 — that’s how we felt about the Lions before Week 4 of 2013.

Therefore, among my questions for those fans was this:

When was the last time you felt the Lions held an unquestionable emotional advantage over your team? How long did that feeling last?

“Have they ever?” said Matt Clapp, AKA @TheBearNecess, epitomizing the tone of the responses. Our own Lester Wiltfong responded “Never.” Two of the other Bears fans acknowledged Detroit’s postseason appearance in 2011, a season with one of Detroit’s only three wins over the Bears between 2005 and 2012.

The Packers fan (“I cannot remember a time when I've had that feeling.”) and the Vikings fan (“Never. The Lions were bullied as a child, thus the complex they've developed as adults.”) exhibited more confidence, while the one Lions fan was shaky:

2011 early in the season. Detroit was so fired up about this team. "Restore the roar" and all that. We had some great comeback victories and made the playoffs. It was a good time. Of course, this was immediately followed by prolonged and extreme disappointment.

We have to remember that the Lions’ cosmic ineptitude was vaster than the 0-16 season. (And holy moly, let’s just sit in that for a moment.) When we beat the Lions in Week 13 of 2010, we dropped them to 2-10 on the season and an obscene 5-47 since their surprising 6-2 start in 2007. They finished 7-9 that year. The fall was on.

That 5-47, 0-16 losing juggernaut is the team in our hearts and minds when even today we look at a Bears schedule with friends prior to the season and start projecting wins:

“Texans, on the road. Could be tough. Depends on Watt I guess but let’s conservatively put that down for a loss. Philly, Week 2. Should be good. Home against the rookie. Dallas on the road. Romo. Okay, let’s just say that we will beat at least one of the Texas teams. That’s 2-1. Lions. (This is where friends flash at each other a dismissive eye shimmy.) In Indy — ummmmmm... that can be a win. Jags yes. Pack. (This is where friends flash a panicked side face.) Vikes are tough. Okay, 5-3 at the bye. That’ll work.”

Notice how we chalked up an obvious win against the Lions, a Reece-staring-down-the-original-Terminator loss against Green Bay, and a splash-of-cold-water Vikings loss. Yet since 2010, our last trip to the playoffs, through today, here are the wins for the NFC North:

Bears: 37 regular season wins, 0 playoff wins, 0 postseason appearances

Vikings: 39 regular, 0 playoff, 2 postseasons, 1 division title

Lions: 40 regular, 0 playoff, 2 postseasons

Packers: 58 regular, 3 playoff, 5 postseasons, 4 division titles

Furthermore, let’s return to that Week 4 matchup in 2013. This was how I felt about it pregame:

And this was how I summed it up when Detroit blew the barn doors off in the second quarter:

We lost 40-32. We’ve lost five straight more since then.

That’s six straight losses. We have not defeated the Detroit Lions since the 2012 season finale, AKA Lovie Smith’s Final Ride.

If that does not seem like a long time, remember that when Brett Favre hung a 10-game winning streak on us in the 1990s, by the end of win #6, Green Bay was on their way to a championship and we’d been thoroughly terrorized.

Or consider this:

Longest active interdivisional winning streaks, including playoffs

9 straight wins: Colts over Titans (last Colts loss, Week 8 2011)

6 straight wins: Lions over Bears (last Lions loss, Week 17 2012)

Panthers over Buccaneers (last Panthers loss, Week 11 2012)

Seahawks over 49ers (last loss, Week 14 2013)

That’s right: Detroit’s consecutive ass-beateries of our beloved Bears is the NFL’s current second best mark.

And if I may quote the Shawshank district attorney, while you think about that, think about this.

With 16 games a season, the emotions a team stirs in a fan mean less than other sports (greater chance of significant deviation from expectations) but are more consuming. You sit in your feelings for an opponent for a full week — from four days before the game to two days after it.

That’s why I think Bears fans have not faced up to our new reality.

We are the Lions.

Not historically, no. In that respect we’re still the Bears.

But in terms of recent history, looking for the team that every other team in the division sees on the schedule before delivering the dismissive eye shimmy, we’re that team right now. We are the NFC North’s dismissive eye shimmy team.

That’s why this game is so important. The combination of an 0-4 start to a season + our first 0-4 start in 16 years + a seventh-straight loss to the Lions could be the final Jenga piece that crumbles the Bears Fan John Fox Confidence Tower. His WCG approval rating has dropped steadily since the end of last season. He closed out 2015 at 94%. We’re down to 42% now, and the hot seat spectre looms.

The Lions must be dealt with swiftly. We must return them to their rightful place in our psyche’s mud room. We must reset our dynamic in a post-Megatron world. We must send them scampering back to Detroit with my long-awaited 31-10 smackdown. They must never again forget they are the Lions.