The normally cool-under-pressure Matthew Stafford couldn’t find that fourth quarter magic for the second week in a row, failing to drive the Lions to a winning score in the waning moments of the game. It was there for the taking, but Stafford missed on four straight passes, and the Lions had to give the ball back to the Packers and watch them celebrate another win over the Lions. There’s a lot of blame to pass around in the wake of what looks like another under-.500 season for the Leos.
The ironic thing about this season is that I, like almost anyone who follows the NFL, thought the defense was going to be the problem this year. The defense is what we thought it was, decent against the run and not too bad in keeping other teams from scoring touchdowns. Sure, you never know who the latest cornerback they got from Craigslist is until they announce his name on game day, but for the most part the backfield has not been totally clueless. They held Aaron Rodgers in check for most of the game. In fact, the play of Nick Fairley has been a revelation. He’s the only one on that vaunted front four that has been consistently making noise the last few games. We all thought the Lions achilles heel was going to be that so-called shaky defense; it’s not. The biggest problem on this team is the lethargic execution of the offense.
For whatever reason, Matthew Stafford is not right this year. His 12 touchdowns to 10 interceptions ratio this year is mind boggling, considering that he heaved 41 touchdowns last year to only 16 interceptions all year. Perhaps he’s dealing with some injuries that we don’t know about. He had his worst game of the year yesterday, with passes missing their targets all day. It didn’t help that some of those passes, when he was on target, kept bouncing off receiver’s hands. Stafford is a very young quarterback who will bounce back to his old form soon.
The Lions much talked about offense has been a mere shadow of what it was last year. Incorporating a running game has been much more difficult than anyone imagined. Linehan’s play selection has been loudly questioned all year, and he didn’t help his case yesterday when the Lions had the ball in the red zone on the next-to-last drive and the last drive when Calvin Johnson didn’t see the ball once come his way. I’m tired of Megatron being the most expensive decoy in the NFL. Too often Linehan resorts to the classic Lion run, run, pass and punt dance.
Technically, the Lions are officially still in the playoff race. Realistically, if they lose to the Texans on Thanksgiving, they will be as done as that turkey you’ll be eating.