For the first time in years, the Detroit Lions entered the final game of the season invigorated with plenty on the line, but thanks to a handful of mistakes, they found a familiar end at Lambeau Field.
Detroit started the day with plenty of momentum after a fourth down goal line stand, but a punt return got the Green Bay Packers off and running. The Lions hung in and would tie the game in the second half, but the Packers strung together two straight scores and a safety to pull away 30-14. The Lions scored late and threatened, but the matter was finally settled by a final of 30-20.
Detroit limps into the postseason after a failed hunt, and must rebound quickly to avoid another major franchise frustration in the wake of high hopes. First, here’s a look back at Sunday.
The Game Turned On Two Negative Plays. Specifically, Sam Martin’s kickoff out of bounds following the tying score and Joique Bell’s fumble after the Lions had blocked a field goal. In both situations, momentum had flipped and immediately went back to the Packers when it could have gone the other way rapidly. Finding a way to reverse such plays are the keys to winning late-season and playoff games. Had the Lions not sustained two sudden gut punches, they could have certainly hung in the game or even managed to win.
Intense Pressure’s On Matthew Stafford This Playoff Season. In Stafford’s first chance to win a big game this season, he fell flat, failing to win and make a statement. A road victory would have been a huge feather in his cap, but instead, Stafford once again failed to come up big and win a significant game. Now, with the Lions back in the playoffs and Stafford heading home to play in Dallas, the pressure on him is intense to finally perform up to expectations. If Stafford has a bad day against the Cowboys, the arrows will begin to turn his way from a disappointed public still longing for a benchmark victory.
Detroit Couldn’t Cash In On Their Chances. Every time the Lions had a chance to make a play to turn things around, they couldn’t get the job done. Even though they only turned the ball over a few times, the Lions turned a gift horse in the mouth after a key fumble, field goal block and multiple big defensive stops. The line between winning and losing is thin, and somehow, Detroit must find a way to flip the script and cash in on their chances. This is especially true on offense, and somehow, the Lions have to find a way to score points in big moments to help flip close games.
Ndamukong Suh’s Stomp Sure Didn’t Look Intentional. Suh was stepping backward late in the game and landed on the injured ankle of Aaron Rodgers. Of course, given Suh’s history and the recent trouble with Dominic Raiola, there won’t be a fair trial in the court of public opinion. Everyone, from writers to Packers’ players, contended the stomp was intentional, but Suh was stepping backward and likely didn’t have his bearings. Suspending him for such a play would certainly be a slippery slope.
Lions? Calvin Johnson showed up in a big way when called upon with two touchdowns and despite an ugly fumble, Joique Bell gutted out 60 yards. Defensively, Jason Jones played a solid game, and DeAndre Levy was everywhere yet again. Credit the rookite offensive linemen for not getting roughed up.
Lambs? Sam Martin had a poor kickoff and a punt returned for a touchdown. Matthew Stafford didn’t make the plays he needed to make in order to win a key road game, and Eric Ebron dropped a few passes. James Ihedigbo didn’t play well and was replaced.
What About The Key Matchup? Entering the game for the NFC North, we said it would be vital to watch the Lions’ run attack against the Packers’ defensive line. Detroit ran for a total of 111 yards, but didn’t get enough in key moments to help their passing attack have any success. Green Bay did a nice job of clogging the middle and bogged the Lions’ runners down at times, leading to the offensive stagnation.
Number To Note: 45, the number of receiving yards from Detroit’s leading receiver Golden Tate. That’s not enough to win a big road game. The Lions had very little good things to speak of from their passing offense, and their most explosive play of the day was a 22 yard pass caught by Eric Ebron. That simply cannot happen for the sake of offensive success.
He Said It: “I think you have to use disappointment as fuel for your next game.” —Jim Caldwell. The coach was certainly not pleased after the game, but said all the right things about flipping the script and turning the page prior to the Lions’ game against Dallas. It’s no secret Detroit is upset, but will have to prove they can get over things quickly in order to get everything back on the right track.