The use of the term "Same Old Lions" has drawn ire from Detroit Lions' players and faithful alike in 2013. With a nation watching on Monday Night Football, the team proved why the saying will likely have to die as hard as an old habit. After coming out possessed on the first and final drives of the game, the Lions fell apart the rest of the way, leading to a deflating 18-16 loss.
Justin Tucker hit six field goals, including an improbable 61 yarder with 38 seconds left to boost the Ravens, who didn't score an offensive touchdown all night, to the victory. The Lions could never put Baltimore away with a quality drive of their own, and were doomed by multiple turnover problems again. With the defeat, amazingly, the Lions are now on the outside looking in of the NFC playoff hunt. They'll have to win out and hope things go their way. The Hunt Report has officially seen everything.
The Running Game Shouldn't Have Been Abandoned. Scott Linehan did nothing to endear himself to Detroiters with an awkward game plan. The run seemed to work early, with Reggie Bush ramming into the end zone to get things started. All night after that, Detroit seemed to run as they pleased, but Linehan was content to put the ball in the hands of Matthew Stafford, who was erratic and shaky throwing the football. When the run returned, the Ravens were often ready. Worse, there wasn't nearly enough play action passing after the run sets. It says something about how far Detroit's ground game has come when 119 yards is considered a major disappointment. Monday night, it was.
Matthew Stafford Has To Fix Himself Or Be Fixed. Stafford fell flat again, firing three irresponsible interceptions to the Ravens. Worse, all were in clutch moments, preventing Detroit from coming back in the game and making a run. All of the picks came from overthrowing, underthrowing or awkward arm slots. Stafford has to take the next step towards becoming elite sometime, and that step revolves around playing more carefully, especially in big moments. Until Stafford grasps this idea, the Lions' offense is going to catch colds at times. It's been a horrendous, glaring late season return to Stafford's pathetic 2012 form. It's becoming time to wonder if new coaching voices might benefit the quarterback's development.
Detroit's Defense Hung Tough. Don't fault the defense for the loss. The Lions didn't get to Joe Flacco as much as they needed, but the team still hung tough, holding Baltimore to six field goals and 305 yards of offense. That should be enough to win on most nights, but the offense didn't help matters for the defense, refusing to pick them up. It was a gritty effort for the Lions' secondary not to allow a 100 yard receiver without two of their top corners. Credit them, along with the defensive line, for playing well enough to win.
Don't Bother Blaming Referees. The coaching staff is far more culpable for another close loss. Yes, some of the pass interference and personal foul calls and non-calls were mysterious, but that's football. The game was right there for Detroit's taking late, but the Lions refused to make enough winning plays to take it. Blaming the officials is a losing mindset. Instead, anger should be directed towards a coaching staff which has not helped Detroit outgrow their usual mental problems which prevent the team from properly closing games.
It's Time For The Lions To Find A Serious Kicker. Fans mocking teams who draft a kicker are football Neanderthals stuck in the past. Justin Tucker proved why the Lions should be seeking out a kicker next April, preferably one with a big leg and plenty of accuracy. Tucker was a weapon all night. Would the Lions have been able to count on David Akers for a long field goal to win the game in the same situation? Not likely. Baltimore was so confident in Tucker that John Harbaugh faked as if he was going on fourth down to fool the Lions. That's having confidence in a major weapon.
Lions? It's tough not to feel for the entire defense, especially Jonte Green, who played a solid game overall in an injury pinch. Offensively, Reggie Bush was a quality runner when used properly, and Joseph Fauria reminded the Lions why they should probably target him more in the red zone.
Lambs? In addition to Stafford, the offensive line didn't protect well. Calvin Johnson had an awkward night with two drops, the most critical coming early in the game with the Lions threatening to take a 14-0 lead. Heap some of the usual criticism on the staff, as well.
Stat Of The Day: 89, the amount of yardage the Lions lost in their eight penalties. Whether they were good calls or not, that number showcased to a nation how nothing has changed under Jim Schwartz all season, and perhaps in four years. The Lions had too many breakdowns with regards to discipline once again to win a close game. It's becoming a tired story to follow.
What About The Five Things? Entering this game on the big stage, we said defensive line play would be vital. Though it was largely a push, the Ravens pressured Matthew Stafford and made him feel uncomfortable. Reggie Bush won the rushing battle with Ray Rice, but it didn't matter because the run was periodically abandoned by Scott Linehan. There weren't many big plays to speak of, and the Ravens special teams far outshined Detroit's with Justin Tucker's big kicks. Finally, the atmosphere was good, but it was no match for the Lions' collapse and Baltimore's clutch championship mentality.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions face another must win game when they take on the New York Giants at home on Sunday. It will prove to be a short, angry week. The game starts at 4:05 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox.
The "Later" Limerick
61 yards? We've seen this movie before
Lions' fans knew that kick was going through for sure,
Things have fallen apart
Where possibly to start?
The boss certainly shouldn't be feeling secureCalvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jim Schwartz, Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Justin Tucker, Matthew Stafford, NFL, Reggie Bush, Scott Linehan