For three quarters, the Detroit Lions played tough football, looking like they were capable of defeating the Green Bay Packers to keep their playoff hopes alive. Then, as predictable as Lucy removing the football from Charlie Brown, the Lions choked in the fourth quarter, failing to add to their slim lead while playing horrible defense down the stretch. Detroit fumbled away what had been a successful looking hunt, and looked two gift horses in the mouth, failing to take advantage of Mason Crosby's horrid case of the shanks and Aaron Rodgers' bizarre afternoon in the pocket.
At 4-6 while looking up at three teams in the NFC North with better records, fans can now turn out the lights on the 2012 season. After a year off, things are back to normal with Detroit football. Next week, the annual Thanksgiving Super Bowl commences. Then, it's all about draft position, baby. Here's some thoughts regarding the most dismal Sunday afternoon of the season.
Scott Linehan's Late Red Zone Play Calling Lost The Game. The Lions were driving late in the fourth with a chance to end the game and extend the Packers' deficit to 10. Matthew Stafford had just hit two huge passes in a row to Ryan Broyles and Titus Young. Then, shockingly, Linehan decided to run the ball twice on first and goal. On third down, there was uncalled contact on Young in the end zone, but the damage was done by Linehan first. Why did he run the ball twice in that situation? Detroit had moved the ball at will and had the Packers on their heels with the passing game. Obviously, you want the clock to move, but a touchdown is needed more with five minutes left. Shawn Jefferson might have agreed, as he was seen screaming in Linehan's general direction late in the game. "I thought there were times we hit on things very well," Jim Schwartz said afterward about his offense. During most of that drive, Schwartz was right. Near the end, he was not.
Matthew Stafford Had His Worst Game As A Lion. "I didn't play my best," Stafford angrily muttered to reporters after the game. "Obviously, I've gotta play better to give us a chance to win." Well, Detroit has been waiting for you to play better and give the Lions a chance to win from the get-go in 2012, Matt. There was no flow to Stafford's game again today, as his accuracy left much to be desired and his decision making on two critical interceptions was worse. There were too many side arm throws again. Detroit's receivers failed Stafford early with plenty of drops, so they're not exempt, however there needs to be a sit down meeting with Stafford to go over the basics. In this case, the tape doesn't lie, and the tape is showing a very erratic quarterback.
Stefan Logan Needs To Be Replaced. Several times, field position was killed due to Logan's inability to properly judge punts. He nearly fumbled once and looked uncomfortable most of the afternoon. His decision making was poor with regards to fielding punts or letting them go. For the last two years, Logan has struggled, and now it's time for him to be replaced on special teams.
Forget The Hyperbole, The Defense Folded. More than stats, moral victories are for losers. The Lions held the Packers' offense to 14 points and looked great at times in the process. They played inspired up front and had several big plays and solid performances. For some reason, it wasn't enough, as when they were needed the most in the fourth quarter, they choked, rendering the entire day a failure. First, it was horrible tackling and blown coverage on a 40 yard pass to Jermichael Finley. Then, Jacob Lacey and Ricardo Silva combined for the worst possible defense imaginable on Randall Cobb, leading to Green Bay's game winning touchdown. Let's call a spade a spade; in the clutch, the Lions' defense cannot execute. Until they can, they won't be taken seriously.
Quietly, Nick Fairley's Having A Great Season. Looking for one bright spot and someone to watch the rest of the year? Try Fairley in the middle of the defensive line, who enjoyed a fantastic game against Green Bay today. He was a force the entire afternoon, and had registered five tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble through three quarters. He also showed a great deal of maturity in refusing to slam Aaron Rodgers to the turf when he had a free shot, and rebounded well from an early offside call. "I thought Nick played well, and across the board, our defensive line played well." Schwartz said. The play of the line was paced entirely by Fairely's energy today. He even busted out the sprinkler after one of his sacks. Nice.
Now, The 2012 Season Is All But Over. There's little left to play for, as the Lions have fallen hard in the standings and are on the far outside looking in with regard to the NFC playoff picture. The frustration and anger on the faces of coaches and players was palpable, and represent tangible signs the Lions are in fact finished this season. The only question left? Can they summon enough pride to put forth a good effort on Thanksgiving against the Houston Texans. If the Lions quit on the field, with the difficulty of the upcoming schedule, things could get worse before they get better.
Lions? Johnson and Fairley showed up to play. Mikel Leshoure toughed out some nice yardage against a tough front when he was called upon. Despite that, there wasn't much that went right for the Lions today, and as a result, there were few players to be recognized for good play.
Lambs? In addition to Stafford's bad game, Ricardo Silva looks out of place in the NFL. Jacob Lacey couldn't cover on the game's last big possession, and it was his error which cost Detroit's defense on Green Bay's final drive. Nick Harris had a terrible game punting the ball, and Logan looks to have completely lost confidence returning punts.
What About The Five Things? Entering this big game, we said it would be important to watch Detroit's start. It wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't as good as it could have been. Both passing games made plays, but Green Bay found the end zone twice while the Lions only did once, and that was the difference. The Lions' defensive line got pressure, and the Packers line did as well, as both racked up the sacks, temporarily slowing the passing games. Ndamukong Suh had a decent game with five tackles, but Fairley outplayed him by making a bigger impact. Detroit's mindset seemed fragile to begin with, and they couldn't make the needed plays to close the deal in the clutch. Where does their mindset go from here? That's anyone's guess.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Houston Texans make their first visit to Ford Field since 2004 on Thanksgiving. The game begins Thursday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. EST on CBS.
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