There's not much human beings can do in four seconds. Basically, homo sapiens can cough, blink, sneeze and belch. For the third week in a row, the Detroit Lions did all those things successively, as they allowed the Indianapolis Colts to rally from a late deficit and steal a victory with just four seconds left on the clock. Despite leading most of the afternoon and putting up huge amounts of offense, the Lions let yet another hunt slip through their fingers due to their maddening inability to close games. As far as the rest of 2012 is concerned, all there's left to see is how many additional ways the Lions can invent to lose.
What else was noticed as the Lions blew another one?
The Secondary Is Beyond Soft. For the third time in a row, the Lions' secondary was completely to blame for a late game collapse. All day, coverage was blown, tackling was poor, and assignments were missed leading to horrible mistakes. The Lions looked to be a step or two slow all afternoon, and couldn't deal with the speed of the Colts' receivers or their agility over the middle of the field. That was perhaps the biggest problem in the game. Then, with everything on the line, Detroit's secondary couldn't come together to make one simple set of plays. It's a familiar theme in 2012, and it's not just related to bad luck, attrition or injuries. The Lions are mentally and physically soft in the defensive backfield, and a complete offseason overhaul is badly needed. Things will likely only get uglier the rest of this season.
Detroit's Offense Lacks A Killer Instinct. No matter how much yardage the Lions amass or how many points they score, something major is still holding this offense back: the fact that they can never score at opportune times when they really need it. Such was the case again Sunday, as multiple times, the Lions would knock on the door of the red zone but settle for long field goals instead. Late in the game, they couldn't apply the dagger either. Until the Lions start getting back-breaking scores, their porous defense will continue to crack under late game pressure. This team isn't going to win games decided by seven points or less, so the offense needs to score touchdowns nearly every trip inside the oppositions' 50 yard line, especially in the fourth quarter.
Out Of Nowhere, Pass Rushing Disappeared. The first play of the game looked to set the tone for the day, as Ndamukong Suh barreled in on Andrew Luck and wiped him out for an impressive sack. Luck appeared rattled on that drive, but was allowed to quickly get back into the flow immediately after his disastrous start. Credit Luck for remaining poised, but the Lions' pass rush looked to get lazy the rest of the day. There wasn't nearly enough big plays, as Luck often had time to survey the field and step up in the pocket. On the final drive when it mattered most, the Lions couldn't even get a hand on him. Joe Staley was right; the defensive line is suddenly starting to look very overrated. If a rookie quarterback and a makeshift offensive line can look like Joe Montana and company at times, you know there's a major problem.
Jim Schwartz Might Need To Be On The Hot Seat. Once is a mistake, twice is an accident and three times is a trend. That's three games in a row Detroit's defense (Schwartz's alleged specialty) has collapsed and allowed an opponent to do whatever they want in the game's waning moments. How patient should the Lions be with Schwartz and his staff given all the ugliness on and off the field this year? Granted, there's been injuries and things happening beyond Schwartz's control, but the lack of attention to detail and focus from the staff on down has crippled the Lions team this year. It could be time for fans to wonder if a few changes in leadership might be the missing elements needed to finally put the Lions over the top. Spoiler alert: look for more on this subject later in the week.
One Good Thing? Brandon Pettigrew Put His Fumble Problems Behind Him. Let's give Pettigrew some well deserved props for putting his fumbleitis behind him after vowing to after an ugly performance on Thanksgiving. Sunday, he looked like a man possessed right away, staying rugged over the middle without dropping many passes and not fumbling. He hauled in an impressive touchdown in the end zone, and was a solid option all afternoon for Matthew Stafford. Without Nate Burleson (broken leg), Titus Young (broken mind) and perhaps Ryan Broyles (knee) the Lions need Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller to step up.
Lions? Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson and Stafford were the major players, as was Ndamukong Suh coming off another ugly week. Give Jason Hanson credit for rebounding off a tough miss on Thanksgiving and contributing points whenever he was asked on Sunday.
Lambs? The secondary as a whole should be embarrassed, and the Lions' linebackers, led by DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant, had a terrible afternoon in coverage. Though Mikel Leshoure scored a touchdown, he didn't run as well against Indianapolis as he has run in past weeks.
What About The Five Things? Heading into this game, we said it would be important to watch Luck against Detroit's pass rush. The pass rush disappeared, and Luck managed the game confidently most of the afternoon. The Colts fared well in a road environment against a decent team, and the late comeback showed signs of an increase in poise. Suh played well, and was a consistent force up the middle. Once again, the Lions failed to do most of the little things well, and it aided in their eventual demise. Jason Hanson was good, nailing two long field goals and keeping his team ahead in the game whenever he was asked.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions head for Green Bay's frozen tundra next Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.
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