I’m sure most of you have heard the saying, “just when you things can’t get any worse, they often do.” Well whoever came up with that saying must have been referring to the Detroit Lions because once again the Lions put themselves in an unnecessary situation and suffered the consequences as they suffered a tough loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a final score of 18-16 on Monday Night Football.
Now, obviously every loss hurts but in this case, it really hurts the Lions because with this loss the Lions drop to third place in the NFC North, nearly taking away their playoff chances for this season. However, I must say that the Lions have no one to blame but themselves for this loss and ultimately for their struggles this season.
Nonetheless, before I start the blame game, let me start by giving credit to the Lions defense. In my opinion they were the main reason the Lions were even in this game. Yes the Ravens scored in this game but did anyone notice the Ravens only scored field goals in this game. The Ravens did not score one touchdown in this game. Now some will say the Lions allowed the Ravens to get down field too much, yes you would be right but I will take that over them allowing the Ravens to score multiple touchdowns. The run defense did a better job of containing the run game this week. The secondary still had its inconsistent moments like they always do but I repeat, they didn’t allow Flacco or his receiving core to execute on one touchdown in this game.
Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, the Lions defense still has their issues, because I still saw plenty of missed tackles and poor coverage. However, the Lions still did a good job of bending and not breaking, meaning they either forced the Ravens to punt the ball away or they made them settle for a field goal.
If anybody is to blame for this loss it’s the Lions offense. Once again I must repeat myself and say “I told you so.” I say it every week, the Lions offense continues to be down fall of this team. All season long the defense has stepped up and kept the offense in the game and all the offense has to do, is not turn the ball over and execute but they can’t do that.
Starting with the turnovers and like always the turnovers came from quarterback Matthew Stafford. I said in my pre-game article, Stafford must take what the defense gives him but he chose to give the ball right to the defense after being intercepted THREE times in this game. This goes back to not making the correct pre-snap and post-snap and I must say all THREE picks were avoidable. In all three situations he either forced the ball into a tight spot or completely threw it to a Raven defender. At this point, that’s unacceptable. To make matters worse, it wasn’t just turnovers with Stafford in this game, he continued to have accuracy issues, either over throwing or under throwing players. If you go back and look at the game film, you will see Stafford missed wide open receivers a few times on various plays. If Stafford’s goal is to truly be the franchise quarterback for the Lions or any NFL team, these issues with turnovers and accuracy must stop. Stafford also did a horrible job of getting everyone involved. I say again, the Lions can’t just be dependent on wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Early in the first quarter he did a good job of spreading the ball around but after that, he didn’t do the best job of getting everyone involved.
Which leads me to the other side of the blame game which has to go to the receivers. I will start with Calvin Johnson, who had over three drop passes in this game. Normally I wouldn’t make a big deal about this because Johnson doesn’t typically drop passes but in this case, I have to put some blame on him. Each pass he dropped was crucial to the Lions not completing a drive that could have ultimately led to a score. The most crucial drop of all by Johnson may have come in the fourth quarter where he dropped a catch-able pass on a two point conversion. Considering that the Ravens won this game off a field goal, that two point conversion could have made the difference for the Lions, who would have had the chance to go into overtime. Now Johnson wasn’t the only one, I say again, no other receivers really go involved. Reggie Bush, Nate Burleson, Kris Durham had a few opportunities to make plays but didn’t. Brandon Pettigrew wasn’t used until late in the game, so I won’t put much blame on him. Same goes for Joseph Fauria, who was only targeted once in this game although the one time he was targeted he did score a touchdown for the Lions. Nonetheless, my point being is that while Stafford didn’t do the best job of spreading the ball around in this game, the receivers must accept the fact that they dropped way to many passes and failed to make a real positive impact when they did receive the ball.
As far as the run game goes, it’s the same old story. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell started the game strong, making plays all over the field but as the game wore on both Bosh and Bell disappeared. Now some of that goes to the play-calling of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and some of it goes to Bush and Bell not executing when they had a chance to run the ball.
Now there are some fans who want to blame this loss on the referees. Mainly because the referees missed a blatant pass interference call when the Raven defender held Kris Durham’s arm in the end-zone which stopped him from making a play on the ball. Now was this a horrible non-call by the referees? Yes it was a horrible non-call. Was this non-call the reason the Lions loss? NO it was not. I understand that if the penalty had been called the Lions would have been put right on the one-yard line of the end-zone but what you must remember is that the Lions had multiple opportunities to win this game. I will say again, despite all the mental errors and penalties on the defensive side of the Lions they still kept the Lions offense in this game. All the Lions offense had to do was execute and score and they couldn’t do that. Notice that the Lions only scored two touchdowns in this game, the first one in the first quarter, the second one in the fourth quarter. Now I understand that the Ravens have a solid defense but that’s no excuse for this Lion offense who is more than capable of scoring consistently.
So if you looking to blame anybody for this loss, look at the offense, Stafford did not step up when his team needed him and Calvin Johnson played terribly when they needed him to make big plays and the role players like Bush, Bell, Burleson, Durham, etc. were nowhere to be found for a consistent four quarters of football. The defense didn’t play great obviously looking back at the missed tackles, poor coverage and unnecessary penalties but they played well enough to give the Lions offense a chance to win, the Lions offense just didn’t take advantage of those opportunities.
I said in my pre-game article, the Lions were more than capable of winning this game, just like they were capable of winning all of their games this season. Unfortunately for the Lions they did not execute, which is why they loss. For those saying that the Lions may not make the playoffs because of this loss, remember the Lions put themselves in this position. You may be sick of me saying this every week but I will say it again, the Lions should be 13-1 right now with complete control of the NFC North and fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs. Unfortunately for them they aren’t doing that, because they put themselves in unnecessary situations against Arizona, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and now Baltimore which is why they loss those games now have a current record of 7-7.
Now are they’re playoff hopes completely over? NO. The Lions still have a chance but they will need some serious luck on their side. The Chicago Bears currently lead the NFC with a 8-6, then you have the Packers who are in second place with a current record of 7-6-1. While the Lions are in third pace with a current record of 7-7. At this point, the Lions have no choice but to win their last few games and they better hope that Green Bay and Chicago lose their last few games. It’s a long shot but that’s their best bet at this point. I know the Lions are down in the dumps right now about their nationally televised embarrassment but if their smart, I will be receiving a phone call from them by the end of the week offering me a job because it’s clear that they need me.
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