Unlike 2011, Santa Claus wasn't kind to the Detroit Lions and their fans this time around, probably because they have been naughty this year. The Atlanta Falcons blasted off to a huge lead, fell backwards a bit in the second half, but then restored order. Despite his record setting night, the Lions had little other impact play on both sides of the ball and didn't get enough going to make this hunt competitive. Following yet another frustrating loss that didn't seem to matter, it's clear the bottom has officially fallen out on Detroit.
What other observations can be found as everyone puts their last minute, finishing touches on the holiday season? Here's a few thoughts.
Scott Linehan's Play Calling Is Atrocious. Far too often, the Lions used the running game when it was non-existent or struggling. Mikel Leshoure didn't run well outside a meaningless touchdown, and Joique Bell was the featured back most of the second half. Neither one ran particularly well. It's been discussed all season long, but Linehan's over-reliance on the running game kills the offense. It's nice to mix things up and threaten the run, but the Lions should obviously be trying to get the ball to Johnson and other receivers first. The offense works that way, not through the ground game. Linehan should be talked to at season's end, and perhaps done away with.
Chris Houston Played Terrible, But He Receives No Help. Early on, Houston was torched twice by Roddy White and Julio Jones for touchdowns, as was the Lions' entire secondary. Houston was picked on much of the night, but cut the guy some slack. He's probably the best corner the Lions have, and there's nobody else out there with him, leaving him vulnerable to the onslaughts of a high flying passing attack like Atlanta's. Detroit started the likes of Jonte Green, Don Carey and company around Houston. That's not exactly a decent supporting cast. Houston is capable enough to play a major role for the Lions, but only if Detroit is able to give him help to fall back on.
Calvin Johnson's Great Accomplishments Are Lost. Looking at all the things Johnson has accomplished this year, it's amazing the Lions aren't winning more and Johnson himself isn't getting more credit. He's doing things wide receivers haven't done in years, and none of it matters because the Lions are dreadfully bad. Two of Johnson's most impressive feats are setting the season receiving yardage record and having the most consecutive games of 100 yards receiving or more. Those things just don't happen every day. Sadly, Lions fans are forced to take the accomplishments for granted because the team is terrible. Like Barry Sanders before him, this is so unfair to a great talent.
Stefan Logan, Just Go Away. Let's just say Logan made a mistake for the sixteenth week in a row on special teams. Though he didn't fumble Saturday night, he was waiving for his coverage to move and made a fair catch motion. Then, late in the game, he inexplicably took a knee on a free punt. These mistakes didn't set the team back that much, but they only further highlighted the notion that Logan is incompetent. It's nothing new, but every week, it should be highlighted until the Lions get a clue and release the guy.
Lions? Lawrence Jackson is having a nice close to the season, and recorded a sack of Matt Ryan. Johnson, of course, was his usual outstanding self. Ndamukong Suh made some nice plays up the middle, and Jonte Green, though young and full of mistakes, showed flashes of why he could develop into a capable situational corner.
Lambs? Matthew Stafford wasn't good enough to lead a win again and threw a horrible interception when the Lions were trying to make a comeback. Leshoure had a fumble and didn't run well enough to gain the confidence of the staff. Logan was terrible on special teams, the secondary was roasted all night long. Other than that, things went pretty well.
What About The Five Things? Entering this pre-holiday match up, we said it would be important to watch Matthew Stafford's competence. His numbers weren't as terrible as last week, but he did throw another bad interception and was unable to find the end zone, not helping Detroit's comeback. Atlanta was very ball secure, not having any turnovers and playing confident. Tony Gonzalez didn't make his usual big impact on the game, the Lions didn't look interested in the first half but then rebounded sparingly and the crowd was decent, but booed the Lions after plenty of foolish mistakes and bad plays helped doom the team.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions close out the 2012 season (finally) with a home contest against Chicago. The game starts at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox.
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