Last weekend, the Detroit Lions were the tormentors, mauling the Jacksonville Jaguars. Today, they were the tormented once again by Christian Ponder, Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings from start to finish. No Percy Harvin? No problem. There were few answers for this latest beating at the hands of the Vikings, and the Lions were rarely involved in this hunt despite a few tepid comebacks. As a result, the light at the end of the playoff tunnel is beginning to dim.
Here's the other talking points from perhaps Detroit's most crippling loss of 2012.
Tough Defense Disappeared. From the first few plays of the game, one of which just so happened to be a long bomb to Harvin's replacement Jarius Wright, the Lions didn't have any defensive spark or answer. Peterson did what he wanted on the ground, and the defensive line didn't do much to affect Ponder's accuracy outside of a few scattered breakdowns. If the last two weeks were a step in the right direction, this game was two gigantic steps backward, especially within backfield coverage. Today, the Lions looked like they were badly missing their bigger named stars like Louis Delmas, Amari Spievey and Corey Williams. If that isn't bad enough, Chris Houston left late Sunday with an apparent ankle injury. Ouch. Literally.
Much Of The Day, The Offensive Game Plan Stunk. It's no coincidence that when the Lions simply started force feeding the ball to Calvin Johnson, things started to get better in a hurry for Detroit's passing attack. Yes, the Lions want to be a running team to keep defenses honest. There are no mysteries, however, as nobody like Peterson occupies their backfield. Detroit has to throw in order to win, and Johnson is their best hope to move the ball in chunks. He made all the tough catches today, so the question is, why wasn't he being targeted much earlier? Last year in Minneapolis, the exploits of Johnson were the reason the Lions won. This time around, they went to him too late for any miracles.
The Coaching Staff Didn't Need To Call For A Short Kick Down Six. In quietly the worst decision of the year (other than trying to draw the Tennessee Titans offside in overtime) the Lions tried to get too fancy down by just six points early in the third quarter and kick the ball short, hoping for a strange bounce. It was a good idea to try and maximize momentum and it almost worked, but the result blew up in the Lions' face. The ball was recovered by Minnesota, and good field position jump started a backbreaking drive. Had the Lions simply kicked the ball deep and tried to play defense, they might have gotten the ball back and kept the comeback going. There was no need to take that large a risk at that point of the game.
Barring A Miracle, The Lions Probably Aren't Making The Playoffs. Sitting at 4-5 with a very difficult road to hoe, the Lions' chances to continue a playoff push likely rested on winning Sunday. Instead, they allowed the Vikings to get ahead going into the bye week. Now, they'll have to survive the next brutal two weeks on the schedule, going up against two of the top teams in the league Green Bay and Houston while playing much better football. Lose one of those and seeing the Lions back in the playoffs will likely have to wait another fall.
Lions? Obviously, Johnson showed up huge. Defensively, Nick Fairley was one of the few active defensive linemen early in his start, pressuring Ponder. Other than that, few players stood out in a positive way in the midst of an ugly loss.
Lambs? Though Brandon Pettigrew caught a touchdown, he also had several drops. Mikel Leshoure didn't run well, and Erik Coleman, Ricardo Silva and the fill ins in the secondary played very poorly. Sammy Lee Hill had a stupid roughing the passer penalty late, which prevented the game from getting any more interesting.
What About The Five Things? Entering this critical NFC North contest, we said watching the running games would give you an idea of which team was going to win, Adrian Peterson ran well, and the Lions did not. Minnesota's complementary receivers, led by Wright and Kyle Rudolph, helped out in the absence of Harvin. Jared Allen didn't get free too often against Jeff Backus, Ponder was more than competent and injuries played the biggest role for Detroit, who didn't have good enough players to get the job done in a pinch.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions head back home for a visit from the Green Bay Packers, needing yet another bounce back win over a division rival. The game starts at 1 p.m. on Fox.
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