They certainly make things interesting. For the second straight week, the Detroit Lions impressively rallied and erased a huge deficit in the 4th quarter, snatching an improbably victory from the jaws of defeat. It maintains their perfect start to the season, and extends their wining streak to 8 games, (12 if you include the pre-season). Because last Sunday’s victory coincided with another ride on the Romo-coaster, Detroit’s rejuvenation has been somewhat overshadowed. But given that the last 11 years have been something of a write-off for football in the motor city, this current Lions team have earned a closer look.

It was only 3 seasons ago that the Lions made history for all the wrong reasons and finished with a winless 0-16 record. This may have been the low point, but it was by no means an aberration. The Lions last made the playoffs in 1999, and ever since then they have been languishing in the doldrums of irrelevancy. The 0-16 season epitomised an embarrassing chapter in their history. Who could have predicted that from these stone-cold ashes a phoenix would rise? Well, to those paying attention, the signs have been there.

The great thing about the NFL is that being bad for so long actually provides an opportunity for long-term prosperity, as these teams begin collecting consecutive high draft picks. In Detroit, they have been slowly amassing the cubs that they would cultivate to be the Lions we see on the field today. On offense, Matthew Stafford is the centrepiece (drafted in 2009). Calvin Johnson (2007) is the star wide-receiver, and most dangerous weapon. Jahvid Best (2010) is solid in the backfield, and Brandon Pettigrew (2009) is impressive at tight-end.

On the defensive side of the ball, Ndamukong Suh (2010) and Nick Fairley (2011) are the very embodiment of dominance; they spearhead a defense that is poised to strike fear into opposing quarterbacks for the next decade. This season, the defense has only allowed an average of 19 points a game and 5 total touchdowns, which is more significant when you place it in the context of a record setting first 4 weeks of the season for offensive production around the league.

In order to control and temper this youthful exuberance on both sides of the ball, the Lions have also completed intelligent acquisitions of free agents such as Nate Burleson and Kyle Vanden Bosch. The experience and perspective that they add is invaluable.

Most people recognised the potential of this team some years ago, but the big question mark was always Matt Stafford’s health. This was a valid concern, as in today’s NFL you will not be successful without an upper echelon quarterback. The days of winning a Superbowl with the likes of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson as your triggerman are over.

Thankfully for Lions fans, Stafford’s early injury problems were so disconnected and random that they seemed to connote general unluckiness rather than any kind of genuinely debilitating pattern. This year Stafford has started off strong, throwing 11 touchdowns against 3 interceptions, with a completion percentage of 62.1% and a quarterback rating of 100.3.

Of course, it helps when you have Megatron to throw to. Calvin Johnson resembles Randy Moss in his prime right now. He has caught 8 touchdown passes already, and on his own he has accounted for more points than the entire Jaguars or Rams teams. He appears impossible to defend at present, and against Dallas he made triple coverage look like a simple game of catch in the park.

The wins are important, but the manner of these victories is even more significant. In week 3 they were down 20-0 at half time. They then outscored the Vikings 26-3 in the 2nd half and overtime. Against Dallas, they were 20-3 down at the half, and then outscored the Cowboys 31-10 thereafter, including a 17-0 4th quarter. In total, the Lions have outscored their opponents 51-3 in the 4th quarter of the last 3 games. Compare this to the “Dream Team” down in Philadelphia, who have blown 4th quarter leads in their last 3 games, and been outscored 36-0 in the process.

The Eagles are a team laden with veterans, but it is the Lions that are displaying all the maturity in the clutch. Team spirit should not be disregarded in this equation, and it is much easier to develop the right attitude and camaraderie in your players when you have drafted and nurtured the core of the team yourself.

So as interesting and compelling as the Tony Romo saga may be, do not let it detract from what the Lions are doing right now; it has been in the making for some time. This is not to say that they are winning it all this season, but they have officially returned to relevancy. More importantly, the Detroit Thanksgiving game is finally watchable again. This year: Packers v Lions. The Lions will face the gold standard in the NFL, and this will be the perfect test to see just how far this young team has come.