Sunday, November 11, 2007

When the Detroit Lions Lose, They Lose Ugly

Well, that wasn't very good. The Detroit Lions were blown out (again), on the road (again) on a day where they could have picked up a game on every NFC Wildcard rival. The Giants lost. The Saints lost. The Panthers lost. Washington lost. And, so did the Lions. So, we lose a game to Green Bay in the race for the NFC North (now two games back) we didn't lose any ground in the Wildcard hunt. That's the good news. The bad news? Well, the entire game for the most part. Penalties. Sacks. Turnovers, and lots of them, four by Jon Kitna by himself, after not having any the last three weeks.

The brutal game was a result of a lot of problems. The defense, despite giving up over 30 points, played decently well at times. They forced turnovers and were playing on their heels all game thanks to turnovers and horrendous special teams play which let kick returner (and former University of Michigan Wolverine standout) Steve Breaston run wild, leading to two Cardinals touchdowns. But the secondary could not stay with Larry Fitzgerald (and to add injury to insult, the Lions lost their best cornerback, Fernando Bryant, to a foot injury late in the game on a meaningless play). And even though the defense kept trying to keep the Lions in the game, forcing turnovers in the fourth quarter when the Lions desperately needed them, the offense just could not get anything going and squandered their opportunities.

And a big reason why was the lack of a running game for the Lions. It's no accident that the Lions three-game winning streak (snapped with authority by Arizona today) coincided with the return of Kevin Jones, who gave the Lions pass-happy offense some balance. Even before the Lions fell way behind Arizona, they never tried to establish the running game, which was stunning given Arizona's strong pass defense and a run defense which gave up over 120-yards last week to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kevin Jones didn't have a single carry in the second half, after having only 4 in the first half, and finished with a touchdown but with -4 yards rushing. The Lions team? -16. That's not a dash in front of the "16" either. The Lions simply won't win without balance and without their running game, and there is no greater example of that than today's loss.

The Lions have shown this year they respond to adversity. Blowouts at Philadelphia and at Washington did not derail them. Will another blowout loss at Arizona? It certainly doesn't get any easier for Detroit, as the hungry (and anxious to shake off their own double-digit loss) New York Giants come to Ford Field next week. The Lions ended the first half of their season 6-2, but if they want to avoid starting the second half of their year 0-2 (and potentially letting the season get away from them) they have to improve their offensive line play, protect the football, and most of all, find that running game again. Because without it, no matter how great the first half of the season was for the Lions, the season will end just as all of them have in the Millen-era, with bitter disappointment.

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