Well the Lions did it again, they lose a game they are capable of winning as they lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a final score of 24-21. Now as you can see from the score this was clearly a win-able game just like last week’s game along with the games they loss earlier this season to Arizona and Cincinnati. However, the Lions did what they do best which is not consistently execute, turn the ball over and not finish strong.
Now there are plenty of problems to discuss but I will start with what solid play I did see and that was the defense. Now the defense didn’t play great in this game, in fact they had some horrible moments in this game. However, they kept the Lions in this game and gave the offense multiple opportunities to tie the game and win the game.
While the defense didn’t play spectacular, they did a good job of limiting running back Bobby Rainey of doing anything in this game. The defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley held the Buccaneers to only 22 rushing yards in the game which was huge since it slowed down the Buccaneers offense.
However, the pass defense was once again inconsistent, mainly because the Lions defensive line couldn’t put consistent pressure on rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. I have said it multiple times this season and I will say it again, having a pass rush is great but when the pass rush struggles, so does the secondary. We saw it last week against Pittsburgh and we saw it today against Tampa Bay. Now I feel the Lions secondary did a great job of taking away wide receiver Vincent Jackson but as I said in my pre-game article, if the Lions bracket Jackson the rest of the secondary must hold their own against the other targets. The Lions didn’t do that. They allowed wide receiver Tiquan Underwood to have two touchdowns and 108 receiving yards which is unacceptable. Now don’t get me wrong, Underwwod has been a solid receiver this season but for the Lions to allow him to play like a top-tier receiver isn’t acceptable. However again, I must say it isn’t a surprise, when the Lions don’t get pressure on the quarterback, they allow any quarterback and receiving core to look like a pro-bowlers.
Now let’s move on to the real problem in this game which was once again the offense. You may be sick of me saying this but again I am not surprised. Every week whether the Lions win or lose, I call them on their flaws and most of the time it has a lot to do with the offense. Most fans accuse of me of “nit-picking,” well I got news for you, I am not “nit-picking,” I am simply bringing up their consistent flaws which if you notice are starting to cost the Lions games. I have said all season long the Lions put themselves in horrible situations by committing turnovers, throwing in accurate passes, dropping passes or just not executing consistently. They do this every week which is why four of the Lions last five games have been decided by three points or less. However fans only seem to notice these things when they lose, every time the Lions win they do the same crap they did today and last week but because they lose, now it’s important.
Now let’s start with the big issue which was the turnovers, the Lions committed FIVE turnovers in this game, technically they committed SIX turnovers if you count the punt that was blocked. The point being whether you count it or not, you can’t turn the ball over like that and think you are going to win. There was no reason that this game should have been close but the Lions committed enough turnovers which stopped them from putting points on the board on most of their drives. Sadly most of the turnovers came from quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw FOUR interceptions. Honestly his interceptions came from him not taking what the defense gave him, not making the correct reads and forcing passes. The only interception that wasn’t his fault was the last interception that took place on the Lions last drive because he actually completed the pass to wide receiver Calvin Johnson but Johnson allowed the ball to be stripped so it was picked off. Then you have wide receiver Kris Durham who fumbled the ball after a nice catch down the sidelines.
The sad thing is that all FIVE turnovers took place while the Lions were in Tampa Bay territory. If the Lions don’t turn the ball over and score touchdowns or field goals on those drives, they could have put anywhere between 15-35 points on the scoreboard which would have won them the game. Then here is another interesting stat for you to think about, the Lions loss this game with a final score of 24-21, Buccaneers didn’t do the best job of scoring off the turnovers but they did score 10 points of the Lions five turnovers, you take those turnovers away, you take way the Buccaneers 10 points away which means the Lions could have easily won with a score of 21-14. So again turnovers were a problem but again they were a problem earlier this season, they turned the ball over four times against the Dallas Cowboys but since the Cowboys didn’t capitalize off the turnovers, Lions were able to win in the clutch. They did it last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers but unlike the Cowboys the Steelers were able to capitalize so the Lions loss.
Keep in mind that the Lions offensive struggles isn’t just about the turnovers either, the run game was horrible. Despite running back Reggie Bush having a few nice runs which took place in the second half, the run game was disappointing for the Lions in this game. Bush and Joique Bell combined for only 98 yards in this game. I didn’t expect them to dominate but the Lions are a pass heavy team that needs to be able to rely on their running game to not only offer balance but to help move the chains and score. Keep in mind that this is something to watch as the season goes on because this has been a problem the last few games and it needs to change quickly.
Now some may be wondering, did I take anything positive from the offense in this game. Honestly, the only thing I took as a positive is that the quarterback Matthew Stafford did a good job of spreading the ball around. He scored three touchdowns with three different receivers (Burleson, Fauria and Pettigrew). He did a good job of getting everyone involved which is what I like to see because they can’t just count on Johnson for everything.
However, that positive was clearly negated because of Stafford’s FOUR interceptions and it wasn’t just the interceptions that I had an issue with. Stafford once again lacked touch on majority of his throws, over throwing receivers or not making the right read. Then you had receivers dropping passes which is not surprise since the Lions lead the NFL in dropped passes with 30-plus drops this season but again I say it’s not a surprise. The Lions have issues scoring consistently, catching passes, throwing accurate throws every week but when they win those flaws gets overlooked.
I said last week I am not one to say I told you so but in this case I have to say it again, “I told you so.” The Lions are a growing team and I don’t expect them to become the best team in the NFL or a Superbowl contender overnight but my analysis is not about that. My analysis on the Lions is about how good this team could be, they are currently 6-5 after this loss to Tampa Bay and once again tied for first place in NFC North but they should honestly be 10-1 and one of the top teams in the NFC and NFL. However, their inability to execute, take care of the ball and finish games hurts them. The Lions should have beat the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers but because of their inability to execute, take care of the ball and finish games, they loss.
The good news is that the season is not over yet, there are plenty of weeks left and the Lions still have an opportunity to win the NFC North and make the playoffs but if things don’t change, the Lions are going nowhere fast. As I say every week, this is no time to sulk or pity yourselves if you’re the Lions. The Lions need to learn from this loss, make some much-needed adjustments and get back on track. They face Green Bay Packers later this week for Thanksgiving and while some may say they can win this game, remember the Lions can win any game but they have to execute, take care of the ball and finish the game if they plan to have success and win.
Just in case you were wondering, I have yet to receive a call from the Lions coaching staff, offering me a position on their staff but if their smart, I will soon receive a call.
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