Photo credit: Mike Morbeck
Author: Joey Carr
January 4th, 2015, a date that will live in infamy for the city of Detroit and their Lions. It was the NFC Wildcard Round of the playoffs and the Lions and Cowboys were dueling it out at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. After a blistering first half and strong fourth quarter, the Lions were on their way to winning their first playoff game since 1991, a divisional matchup that was also against Dallas. However, the football gods had different plans in mind for Matthew Stafford and company. About halfway into the fourth quarter, Detroit was marching down the field and looked to extend it’s lead over America’s Team, which would’ve almost sealed a W and sent them to Green Bay for the NFC Championship. Everyone on the Lions sideline was cheering and jumping up and down with a Grinch-Like smile on their face, knowing they came into Dallas and left victorious. Then came the flag. On a pass downfield from Stafford to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, linebacker Antony Hitchens jumped and tried to block the pass with his body, which he succeeded in doing, but a little contact was drawn, and referee Pete Morelli threw a penalty flag. But the call never came for pass interference or holding or illegal contact; instead Morelli walked to midfield, picked up the flag, put it back in his pocket, and said there was no flag on the play, giving no explanation. This started a chain reaction that led to Dallas winning the game on a last minute drive, breaking the heart of Detroit Lion player and fan alike. However, there was hope for this season. This was the year the Lions would finally win a playoff game and make their mark. Fast-forward to today, and the Lions are looking like the worst team in the National Football League.
To be fair, Detroit was blessed with one of the more daunting schedules in all of football, but they haven’t put up much of a fight in any of their games. They haven’t scored more than 28 points in any game and have given up at least 24 points in all but one game. Their offense has been one of the least efficient units in the league and their defense has really felt the losses of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. I don’t think anyone expected this kind of production from a team that was a penalty away from making the NFC Championship Game just a year ago. So why have the Lions been so bad? Their lack of execution on offense.
Matthew Stafford. Calvin Johnson. Golden Tate. Ameer Abdullah. Joique Bell. Eric Ebron. These names are all on the Lions offensive unit, however they’ve all vastly under exceeded expectations. Stafford is just a year removed from throwing for 5,000 yards and Calvin Johnson has gone from one of the most feared receivers in the game to a middle of the pack
producer. Their running game has been very inconsistent, causing them to rely more on the passing game, which is just making things for the offense worse. On a roster with all those big names, third string running back Theo Riddick is the only one putting up decent numbers week in and week out. He’s been extremely reliable in the passing game, finding the end zone a couple of times and out pacing rookie Ameer Abdullah. This bottom of the pack offense is what is really holding back this Detroit team and if Stafford and company don’t fix their problems sooner rather than later, we might be seeing more of Dan Orlovsky (like we did last Sunday).
It’s not that the Lions are a bad team, they’ve just executed so poorly on both sides of the ball. Through five games, they’ve given up 1877 yards on defense, ranking 23rd in the league, and have accumulated only 1607 yards of offense, also 23rd in the league. To put those rankings in perspective, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and Cleveland are all ahead of Detroit in total offense. Now, it’s easy to blame the quarterback for the majority of the offensive problems, but Stafford hasn’t been as bad as his numbers indicate. Yes, he’s thrown 8 interceptions, but if you watch the tape, these picks haven’t been entirely his fault. Take a look at this interception in Week 1:
If you count the seconds, Matthew Stafford had about 1.5 seconds before he was on the ground. His offensive line put up no fight whatsoever, causing him to be pressured extremely quickly and not wanting to take the sack, he tried to get rid off it but was hit too soon and was intercepted on an amazing catch by the defensive lineman. A lot of Stafford’s interceptions have been like that, with acrobatic catches by the defense. So yes, it is partly the quarterback’s fault but there are many other factors to consider when talking about their offensive struggles. Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate haven’t exactly given their QB any help, dropping about a third of their targets. Johnson, a usually perennial receiver, hasn’t graced 100 yards receiving yet this season and only has one touchdown. Tate hasn’t been any better, also not getting to 100 yards and has no touchdowns. It’s easy for fans to blame Stafford because of how many picks Stafford has this season, but truth be told, it’s not all his fault.
In addition to their offensive woes, the defense hasn’t exactly pulled their weight, as they have given up an average of 375 yards a game thus far. Their pass defense is definitely worse than their run defense in terms of yardage, but that might be attributed to the fact that they have faced an above average quarterback in each of their games. However, that should be no excuse when it comes to desire to win. They are playing largely uninspired on
D, and it shows late in the game when their offense needs them to get a stop but instead they allow a long, time-wasting touchdown drive. If the offense has any hope of improving, a large factor in that improvement will be the defense allowing them to get on the field more often.
The Detroit Lions are loaded with talent. They’ve got great weapons on offense and potential on defense. However, they’re 0-5 and are one of the worst teams in the NFL. With a somewhat easy schedule going forward (easier than their first 5), they have the ability to turn their season around but need to start executing on both sides of the ball. More importantly though, they need to start playing like a team.
Charity of the day: Save the Children
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