Detroit — What goes up always seems to come down for the Lions, often awkwardly so.
Sunday's smothering win against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field may be no different, either. Because lost in the celebration — almost literally — was one of their team leaders, their leading tackler, the quarterback of their defense and one of the league's most durable players.
And if the Lions' worst fears are realized today when linebacker Stephen Tulloch undergoes an MRI on his injured left knee, well, that'll be the newest definition of Lions luck, won't it? That stop-motion animation of Tulloch's season going down in a heap like that?
"I celebrated, I landed funny, and it is what it is," Tulloch said, trying his best to stay upbeat in a victorious postgame locker room. "There's nothin' funny about it, but that's just the way it happens."
In a Coen brothers' movie, maybe. But in a league where violence is the norm and brutal injuries are commonplace, this just seemed downright cruel.
Here's a guy who hasn't missed a game in his nine-year NFL career, a guy who missed just one in college. And here he is making a huge play, pouncing on Aaron Rodgers for a drive-ending sack midway through the first quarter, bringing the sellout crowd at Ford Field roaring to its feet. And there he goes, punctuating the moment with demonstrative leap — what looked to be a riff on Rodgers' trademark championship-belt celebration.
And then there he was, falling suddenly to the turf after his left knee buckled slightly as he tried to stick the landing. Dismount Double-Check, if you will.
"To be honest with you, I haven't really seen the replay yet," Tulloch said. "But when I came down, (the knee) kind of gave a little bit inside. I popped back up, I thought I'd be OK. … I just remember getting up as fast as I could, because everybody saw me fall."
He headed to the bench, accepting his teammates' congratulations as he went. A short time later, he hopped on one of the stationary bikes on the sideline, then tried to test the knee with a couple of quick sprints. It felt good, he said. But Tulloch lasted just one play on the next defensive series, tapping out after he was unable to shake off a block on a first-down run.
He was examined briefly by the team's medical staff, then headed to the locker room and returned wearing a T-shirt, shorts and a huge ice pack on his knee. His day was obviously done.
As for his season, Tulloch was trying to sound optimistic late Sunday afternoon, though there's obvious concern about ligament damage — including a possible ACL tear — whenever a knee bends the way his did.
"We haven't gotten to that point yet," Tulloch said. "There's no swelling in it now. I'm able to put pressure on it. I'm able to jog on it. So we'll see how it goes from there."
How it went from there Sunday, though, was like nothing Tulloch had ever experienced.
Showing his passion
He was playing in his 131st consecutive game Sunday, the longest active streak for a defensive player in the NFL. That's every game in his career, dating back to his 2006 rookie season as a fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans. He missed a game early in his freshman season at North Carolina State, but that was more than a decade ago.
"Sitting on the sidelines is new to me," Tulloch said. "It's sickening."
Troubling, too. When head caoch Jim Caldwell sought him out in the postgame locker room, Tulloch was the first to speak, apologizing for leaving the team in the lurch. Not that Caldwell was blaming him for anything, really.
"There's got to be some enthusiasm in the game," Caldwell said. "That's why these guys play."
But please, don't call it embarrassing. Tulloch bristled at the mention of that word Sunday, though he knows his injury will be shown again and again on the TV highlight reels. Even Caldwell, in the postgame news conference, brought up the infamous 2001 blooper when Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica injured himself celebrating a made field goal.
"It doesn't matter to me," said Tulloch, who took some flak for "Tebowing" a few years ago but came away otherwise unscathed. "I've played a long time in this league, and people know what I'm about and what I bring to the table. I'm passionate about the game of football. I celebrated. And things happened."
Bad things, maybe.