Same old Detroit Lions. It's a phrase that's often overused, but after yet another awful meltdown at Lambeau Field ended in typical Lions fashion, it's not cliche at all. Despite looking capable of blowing the Green Bay Packers out throughout the game's first half, the Lions made just enough of their typical mistakes to come up short again. First, it was a ball slipping out of Matthew Stafford's right hand. Then, untimely interceptions and coaching mistakes. Yes, the ghosts of Lambeau arrived and snatched another Wisconsin hunt from the Lions.
As a result, "the streak" will now officially turn 22 years old. 'Nuff said.
The Lions Are A Mentally Weak Team. When Matthew Stafford had the ball slip out of his hand and roll free which led to a Packers' touchdown, that was essentially the end of the game. Even though there was plenty of time remaining on the clock, these Lions were never going to recover from that sudden change. Why? They no longer believe they can win. That becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. On the next possession, Stafford fired a careless interception with Detroit on the move again. From that point on, the Lions simply went through the motions. The reaction by the Lions to both events reeked of a defeated team.
Another Coaching Mistake Directly Aided In A Loss. Instead of trying to pin the Packers deep in their own territory and play defense, the Lions elected to try a 52 yard field goal in a blizzard. Predictably, Jason Hanson was short. Even more predictably, aided by the excellent field position, the Packers marched down the field and took the game over with a touchdown, using the next drive to make a statement. These types of silly, avoidable mistakes can't keep happening to Jim Schwartz if he wants to keep his job. Discretion is the better part of valor. As nice as three points would have been, the Lions needed to play the field position game more than they needed to try a field goal given the situation.
The Defense Isn't Capable Of Big Stops Or Big Plays. It was already obvious coming into this game, but tonight, facing a third and 11 with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Lions allowed the Packers to break their backs with a deep pass, making the most important mistake of the night. That was par for the course during other points in the game, where the Lions seemed to be one big play away from breaking down the Packers. Outside one play by Lawrence Jackson, the Lions' defensive line never touched Aaron Rodgers. Instead, they let him move the pocket. The Lions can't make the plays they need to win on defense. It's scheme as much as coaching as much as bad play, and terrible things keep happening.
Nick Harris Has To Go. It's spot duty, sure, but couldn't the Lions have found a better punter than Harris to fill in during 2012 from the waiver wire? His pitiful 30 yard effort in the fourth quarter helped put the game away, as the Packers used another jump start in field position to score soon after. For weeks now, he's been more cold than hot when punting the ball, burning Detroit more than once and allowing hidden special team yardage to play a role in losing efforts. The Lions have to address their putrid punting situation during the offseason in some way, and that includes reconsidering their use of starter Ben Graham.
As Nice As They Are, Sunday Night Games Are Overrated. Who wants to hear Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wax poetic about the Lions woes at the end of games, their propensity of being a "dirty" team or Stafford's inability to hit open receivers over and over again? Then, after the game, sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya can even get into the act with bogus questioning. In the post game, she asked Rodgers if he felt some of the Lions' hits were illegal. Please. If the Lions never played on Sunday Night Football again, fans shouldn't be disappointed at all. The games rarely end well, and the announcers have a strange way of rubbing it in Detroit's face in the end.
Lions? The receivers stepped up and played a decent game given the circumstances. Again, Nick Fairley played well, getting a sack and impacting the game in the middle. Lawrence Jackson rushed well off the edge, and Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell played their best games of the season.
Lambs? Stafford started hot but fell apart in ugly fashion, making two big mistakes in the game. The backfield struggled again, as Rodgers picked them apart methodically. Jim Schwartz gets included for his decision to kick a 52 yard field goal in a snowstorm, and referee Tony Corrente should be mentioned as well for flagging Ndamukong Suh for barely touching the quarterback.
What About The Five Things? Tonight, we said it would be important to watch the Packers running game. They ground out 140 yards which was huge, and scored two rushing touchdowns. Their offensive line protected Rodgers well, but Detroit's defensive line helped that out by rarely wrapping him up. The wide receivers played alright, and little known Kris Durham had a few nice plays. Killer instinct was gone again, as the Lions made too many mistakes to win. Finally, the ghosts of Lambeau came out in full force, most epically when Stafford dropped the ball in the first half.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions head to the desert to take on the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday afternoon at 4:25 p.m. on Fox.
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