The Detroit Lions will have to wait to end another one of their highly-publicized road losing streaks. A trip to the desert would prove impossible and befuddling again, as mistakes and offensive inconsistency prevented Detroit from beating the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona jumped out to a fast 14-0 lead behind a pair of touchdowns from Michael Floyd, and the Lions didn’t know it at the time, but those scores would hold up all afternoon. Without a consistent offensive output, a pair of field goals didn’t help, nor did nine penalties. Though the defense stemmed the tide, Detroit’s hunt was a miserable 14-6 failure thanks to a sputtering offense.
Once again, the birds used their home field advantage to beat the cats. What else did we learn Sunday? Here’s this week’s rundown.
Discipline Problems Returned. Detroit had done such a wonderful job avoiding their typical mistakes, but Sunday, they came back in a big way with a barrage of penalties. Some may or may not have been legitimate, but Detroit cannot put themselves in a position to win racking up 80 yards on nine penalties. Rob Sims incurred a significant personal foul call, and rookie Eric Ebron made a foolish offensive pass interference mistake. Late in the game, Detroit even received a call for taunting the Arizona sideline despite trailing. Yes, that actually happened.
Matthew Stafford Still Isn’t Elite. Drew Stanton, in spite of the hot start, didn’t have a wonderful afternoon, and could certainly have been outplayed by a quarterback like Stafford. Instead, Detroit’s quarterback had a horribly inefficient day, taking too many sacks and missing plenty of clear reads on the field. At some point, Stafford is going to have to beat an elite defense on the road and win a game all on his own. Bad reads, interceptions and botched snaps aren’t a recipe for getting that done. Stafford has been a comeback king, but a better overall effort start to finish is still needed from Detroit’s quarterback to win the biggest regular season and playoff games. He’ll have another chance against Tom Brady next week.
Jerome Bogar Had A Rough Afternoon. Officiating shouldn’t be used as a crutch, but in certain circumstances, there’s nothing a team can do but throw up their hands and admit they were hosed a tiny bit. Bogar certainly had nothing for Detroit, considering he botched several spots on the field both early and late, and arguably made his biggest mistake along the goal line ruling Arizona had kept their punt in the field of play at the one yard line. Clearly, Jeremy Ross had advanced a ball that was batted out by a falling player, meaning the call was an obvious mistake by Bogar. The call reversed momentum, and forced Detroit to drive the length of the field which they couldn’t. Officials should be held to high standards, and Bogar’s performance was miserable enough to warrant him losing playoff games.
…But Detroit’s Coaches May Have Had A Rougher Afternoon. Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi aren’t without blame for the road debacle either. Caldwell had his signals crossed all afternoon about when to go on fourth down, and some of the plays Lombardi dialed up were mystifying. Going with a shotgun formation on third and one is a curious move, as was the team’s inability to get the ball to difference makers like Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson. Most galling was Caldwell’s decision making late in the first half. Instead of trying to go for a touchdown before half, Detroit simply settled for a field goal, which was extremely conservative. Late in the fourth, he went on fourth and two closer to midfield, which is a bad spot to put a solid defense in late. At some point, Caldwell and Lombardi are going to have to win a game for the Lions. It certainly didn’t happen Sunday.
Still, Give The Cardinals Credit. When all was said and done, the Lions lost a close road slugfest of two excellent teams, and two squads that could have plenty of say about the NFC race the rest of the way. Arizona’s defense was lights out, especially on third down. “That’s one of the best secondaries we’ve seen all year,” Matthew Stafford said afterward. Certainly, give Detroit’s defense credit for rebounding and keeping the team in the game. Considering the Cardinals are a mirror-image of the Lions, losing to them by eight on the road wasn’t something to be too embarrassed about, all things considered. The offensive deficiencies and refereeing made the loss feel worse than it actually was.
Lions? Joique Bell ran the ball extremely well and had a solid day, as did Josh Bynes who made a big interception and contributed on special teams. Cassius Vaughn also made a nice pick. Credit Matt Prater for making the kicks he needed to and rendering the kicking game a non-story at least for one week.
Lambs? In addition to Stafford, Sims and Ebron made two of the most costly penalties of the game when Detroit had momentum, leading to a pair of failed drives during the first half. It’s probably fair to lump the entire offense in this category after not producing a touchdown.
What About The Key Matchup? Detroit actually managed to run the ball with Joique Bell, busting plenty of big runs and collecting 98 on the ground against Arizona’s defensive line. It should have led to their offense functioning, but instead, the passing game came up dry despite the success of the run. Entering the day, it didn’t seem Detroit would struggle if they were able to run for nearly 100 yards. Just another oddity from playing in a place Detroit never wins.
Number To Note: 80, the number of yards Detroit lost to penalties. Giving up that hidden yardage isn’t going to cut it on the road against a tough team, and regardless of the officials, the Lions have to find a way to be more disciplined and eliminate stupid errors. Penalties continue to be a reason it would be wise to temper expectations about the team moving forward. Until they prove they can play without them in big games, it will remain an issue.
He Said It: “Like I just told them, it only counts for one, not fifteen.” —Jim Caldwell. Afterward, Caldwell was putting a happy face on about the loss, saying all the right things about minimizing the mental damage within the team. Caldwell said all of Detroit’s goals are still in front of the them which is true, so it was probably smart of the leader not to overstate things or get too wound up about the officiating after everything was said and done Sunday.