I’m not one to say I told you so but in this case I have to say it, “I told you so.” How many times have I brought up the Lions inconsistent offensive flaws, the turnovers, the questionable play calls by Jim Schwartz and the fact that the Lions continue to put themselves in unnecessary situations. Which is why the Detroit Lions suffered a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a final score of 37-27. Now I constantly bring up the Lions flaws win or lose but the problem is when the Lions win, fans tend not to pay attention to the flaws, now that they have loss everybody wants to bring up the flaws.
Now before I break down the reason the Lions loss, let me say this is not one person or one group blame game. Everyone is to blame for this loss and I do mean everyone.
Let’s start with the offense. Once again, I have been saying all season long that the Lions can not continue to go long stretches without scoring, yet they did so again in this game. The only catch is this time it came back to bite them. The Lions offense started off horrible in the first quarter, not scoring at all, then in the second quarter they finally got going, scoring 27 points. However, it was in the second half, that they completely collapsed. This Lion offense did not score at all in the second half. Stafford early on did a good job of spreading the ball around but once again he missed a lot of opportunities to score because of his inconsistent accuracy. He overthrew his receivers multiple times, he constantly threw passes directly at defenders. Then you have the Lions receiving core who was inconsistent. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson played great in the second quarter but was non-existent in the second half. As were the other Lion receivers such as Kris Durham, Kevin Olgetree and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, there were also a few key dropped passes in this game.
When it came to the Lions running game, they were solid at times, especially running back Joique Bell who rushed for a touchdown in this game. However, I feel the Lions didn’t do a good job of sticking with the run game. They constantly went to the air on instead of trying to find balance and they didn’t make a point to create much play-action situations. Unfortunately running back Reggie Bush didn’t do much in this game but what made matters worse was that he caused turnovers.
Which leads me to another key reason the Lions loss, they turned the ball over THREE times, technically it should have been four turnovers because Bush fumbled the ball in the first quarter but fortunately for the Lions he was able to recover it. Nonetheless, the Lions turned the ball over THREE times while the Steelers didn’t turn it over at all in this game. The first one as came from Bush when he fumbled. Stafford also had a turnover, when he once again made a horrible read, forced a pass and was picked off.
However, I blame the third turnover on head coach Jim Schwartz because it was his play call that caused the turnover. In the fourth quarter, Schwartz had an opportunity to kick a field goal and extend the Lions lead to seven points but instead, he decided to fake a field goal and try to score. However, it was in that moment punter/kicker Sam Martin fumbled the ball which Steelers ultimately recovered and their offense was able to score off it and took the lead. Now this wasn’t the only bad decision by Schwartz. Early on the first quarter, the Lions were in red-zone territory and instead of kicking a field goal, he decided for it on fourth down, the Lions didn’t convert and the Steelers receive the ball. Now keep in mind that is six points that could have helped the Lions to win this game or at least help them make a comeback in the end. Last week against the Bears, the Lions left six points on the field because of similar situations but again it was overlooked because the Lions won.
The Lions offense as they have been all season long was inconsistent. To not score at all in the second half is ridiculous but it’s not the first time they have done that. They did it earlier this season against the Arizona Cardinals and keep in mind they lost that game. The Lions have had issues with turning the ball over this season, they turned the ball over FOUR times against the Dallas Cowboys but since the Cowboys couldn’t capitalize, the Lions were able to come away with win after a clutch play by Stafford. Nonetheless, I said in that game, it should have never come down to that because the Lions can’t always assume they will have the opportunity to win in the clutch. This Lions offense has also had inconsistent offensive issues with constantly scoring the ball and allowing teams to stay in the game seeing that the Lions last three games have been decided by three points or less. While I understand that the NFL is competitive, this is more about the Lions not being able to put teams away and thinking they can win in the clutch every time. Again, this has been a problem all season long, they did it against the Bears, Cowboys and even the Redskins but because they won so fans overlook it.
Which leads me to the Lions defense, who some people don’t blame but I do. While the Steelers did have trouble scoring touchdowns in the red-zone, I honestly don’t give the Lions defense that much credit for it. In my opinion, the Steeler’s lack of execution in the red-zone is the reason the Steelers struggled in the red-zone. Don’t believe me, go look at the film, every time the Steelers were in the red-zone, the Steelers stop themselves from scoring a touchdown whether it was drop pass, over throwing a receiver or not blocking.
The Lions pass defense was extremely inconsistent which is not surprising because for the first time in a while, the Lions defensive line was not able to consistently pressure the quarterback. Anytime the Lions defensive line struggles to pressure the quarterback, you know it’s a possibility that the Lions secondary could struggle and that’s exactly what happen. They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to have one of his best games of the season seeing that he threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns. The only bright spot in the defense was their run defense, if you really want to call it a bright spot. While running back Le’Veon Bell did have some nice moments in this game, the Lions still did a good job of slowing down the run game, seeing that the Steelers only rushed for 40 yards in this game.
Overall, the Lions as whole are to blame and they have no one to blame but themselves for this loss. I said the Lions were in control of their destiny and they still are but they must understand that their continuous flaws can’t continue if they plan to win in NFC North Title and go to the playoffs.
A lot of fans accuse me of being to hard on the Lions, when in reality I’m not. I just want fans to understand how the Lions put themselves in bad situations that they shouldn’t have to be in. After today the Lions are 6-4 and are still in the hunt to win the NFC North but again go back to the Lions losses this season. The Lions should easily be 9-1 but they aren’t because they couldn’t finish and win games against the Cardinals and Bengals earlier this season and they could couldn’t finish today against the Steelers. In those three losses the Lions had multiple opportunities to win the game but couldn’t and while they are able to pull out wins sometimes with missed opportunities, sometimes they aren’t able to overcome those missed opportunities and mistakes and today was proof of that.
While the I feel the Lions have no one to blame but themselves for this loss, they have no time to sulk in self-pity because they have to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday. While some may feel that this should be an easy win, let me remind you that most fans thought the Steelers game would be an easy win, yet the Lions loss. So again never underestimate your opponent. I just broke down what the Lions need to fix on both sides, let’s see if they take my advice or better yet hire me on their staff.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com