Lions' home attendance dips below 50,000 for first time in more than a decade

Detroit — Say what you want about Detroit Lions fans, but they're a loyal bunch. But this year, more than any in the past decade, the team is struggling to pack the stands.

On Sunday, thanks to a confluence of factors that include an ongoing pandemic and a holiday, the team failed to draw 50,000 in paid attendance for the first time in more than a decade, with a reported figure of 47,129 tickets sold for Sunday's 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

A huge amount of empty seats are shown in the fourth quarter Sunday as the Lions take on the Eagles at Ford Field.

It's the fewest fans to pay to see the Lions since Week 8 of the 2010 season, when the team played host to Washington. And it's probably not a coincidence that contest also fell on Halloween. 

After Sunday, the Lions are averaging 52,046 fans per home game. Only Washington has been worse this season.

If that holds steady, outside of 2020 when fans were largely kept out of the building due to government restrictions relating to the pandemic, it would be the fewest fans to attend Detroit's home games since 2009, the year after the team finished 0-16. 

More: Justin Rogers' Lions grades: From defense to decisions, Detroit fails miserably

In fact, the Lions averaged more fans (54,497) during that winless season than they are now. 

This year, the Lions had a relatively packed house for the season-opener, welcoming 59,374 through the turnstiles. But that figure hovered just above 50,000 the next two games, before dipping well below this Sunday.

The team's annual Thanksgiving contest figures to bring in another full house, but it's possible the team could dip below 50,000 again with any of their other three home games if they remain winless deep into the season. 

According to a report by the Sports Business Journal earlier this month, the NFL was critical of a small number of teams, including the Lions, for their season ticket sales ahead of the regular season. 

"During a presentation from Bobby Gallo, NFL senior vice president of club business development, five logos appeared on the screen: those of the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and the Washington Football Team," the Sports Business Journal reported. 

"... But making the bottom tier of ticket sellers the subject of an individual slide — part of a highly curated, carefully planned presentation to the owners — displayed an intentionality that is never a coincidence at the NFL, three veteran team officials said."

Happy homecoming

The Eagles delivered a knockout punch — one of many, actually — in the third quarter with the ol’ scoop-and-score on a D’Andre Swift fumble to make it 38-0 in Detroit’s homecoming game.

That was probably the moment most of Detroit turned the channel, but it was the cherry on top for Eagles defensive backs Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay, who both used to call Detroit home themselves.

Maddox, a Detroit native and Detroit King grad, punched the ball out of Swift’s hands and Slay picked it up for a 33-yard return that went all the way. When they started celebrating, Maddox asked the former Lion if he could have the ball back.

“I jumped over his head, I got hype, and I walked up to him and said, ‘Slay, you think I could have the ball?’” Maddox said. “I said, ‘I’m trying to give it to my dad.’ I went over and gave the ball to my dad, so I appreciate Slay for that.”

Maddox’s father sat in a section alongside more than 50 seats filled with family, players and coaches from the Detroit King football team, which Maddox paid for.

“I tossed it up there and said,’ This one’s for you,’” Maddox said. “He gave me that big smile like he always (does).”

Slay joked afterward in an interview with FOX Sports’ Megan Olivi that he actually could have envisioned his return going just a little better.

“A pick would have been nicer,” Slay said. “But that’s cool man, that’s good, seeing the end zone.”