SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There's a lot of red and gold on the field inside Levi's Stadium— not the color confetti Lions fans were hoping to see at the end of this NFC Championship game.
It didn't look like it was going to end up that way, the way this thing started. Lions fans making their presence felt here in the crowd. Outnumbered but certainly not overpowered, especially with the way the team was playing in that first half.
There were chants of 'Jared Goff'— one Niners fan walked in front of me and said under his breath, 'Dude, we are so bad.'
And then it's like the teams went into halftime and switched jerseys because, my goodness, what a different look.
The second half was a tough pill to swallow for Lions fans, leaving the stadium we saw a couple of tears— but I also saw a few smiles.
And that is what really got to me because Lions fans; you know what they've been through all this time. You've heard the stats— haven't played in this game in 32 years.
There's a lot to be hopeful for, looking ahead to the future and looking back on the season; that was the sentiment I heard from fans when speaking to them after the game.
"It's been 1971 that I've been rooting for these guys. It's been an amazing series," One fan told FOX 17. "We're looking for next year. Obviously. We wish we had won. Hey, we can't complain. live by the sword. You die by the sword."
"You still got a big smile on your face right now," I noted when one man and his family approached us. "Why is that?"
"You know Detroit is not made this far and forever," he said. "I'm so proud of my hometown. I think they did a great, great season next year. They're gonna be better."
And despite the fall in momentum at the start of the game— an air of gratitude was coming from those donning Honolulu Blue and Silver Sunday evening.
"Great game. We're so proud of the Lions," said another fan. "We came all the way from Detroit to see them play!"
Still another— "Thank you Lions for everything. This was a hell of a season."
"What did you learn about the team and the franchise this year after everything you've been through?" I asked.
"Well, it just there's this camaraderie and the whole city rallied behind them," the fans told FOX 17. "I'm just so proud of this city. That team, Dan Campbell, you live by the sword you die by the sword. This is what happens sometimes."
When asked when the Lions had left them confident at the end of the season, one word said it all;
"I grew up in Detroit— I'd just written them off every year. That's why it's been nice the last few years," they remembered.
Lions fans are all too familiar with the term SOL— Same Old Lions— And, yeah, tonight didn't go the way they had hoped, but safe to say these aren't the Same Old Lions anymore. In fact, this might be America's new team.
Those thoughts all-too-joyfully left behind.
"Thank you. We'll be back. We will be back."
The offseason could look very interesting. They have a young roster with two players up for Offensive Rookie of the Year, a lot of draft capital, and a lot of money to use in free agency.
Detroit is now a very attractive destination for those free agents who are looking for a new place to play.
"That's the interesting thing," our post-game friends said. "There's something here that somebody can build on. There's a future."
A future— and a feeling Lions fans throughout franchise history only dreamed of.
"The Super Bowl is next for us next year."
A lot of the fans I spoke to tonight said we're just happy to be here. But because of all those things I just mentioned, I think the narrative is going to change from we're happy to be here, to we expect to be here.