The Lions Den: Another blunder in the post season
Detroit lost yet another playoff game, so what's next for the Lions franchise?
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Detroit Does it Again
There is really no way of sugarcoating the way that the Lions played in their 26-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Lions looked dazed and unprepared on defense, unable to stop Seattle’s running back Thomas Rawls and allowing him to set a franchise record of 161 rushing yards in 27 carries, including a TD. QB Russell Wilson also looked great against the putrid secondary, making Tayvon Wilson look like a fool on their first TD of the game when the Detroit safety was draped all over a Seahawks receiver, who made an incredible one handed catch for the 6 points. The Lions offense was suffocating all game long, and Seattle executed and tackled beautifully at home as they usually do. They have won nine straight games at home in the postseason now, and clearly looked like the better team all night long. Despite Detroit’s three game losing streak at the end of the season, I believed that the team was going to find themselves in the days before the game in Seattle. I thought that the players would put their feet in the ground and give it their all against the 12th man. I thought they would find some momentum and resurrect their volatile, yet unpredictable offense. I thought that the defense would capitalize on Russell Wilson’s average performances and maybe be able to apply pressure and make some plays in the secondary. But, I was wrong once again. To the horror of Lions fans, they once again blew it in the postseason. That very term is vaguely familiar to most fans, a distant dream that is only achievable for a short window of the season and usually evaporates before Detroit even has a chance to prove themselves. This season was different, however, and fans like myself had a really good feeling about the way the season was going. Was it the fact that Matthew Stafford was actually in MVP talks? Was it the single season record for 4th quarter comebacks? Was it the realization that we did not need Calvin Johnson for our offense to function properly? Well in the end, some of those things came back to bite us.
Why Did it Happen?
Detroit’s problem was that very rarely they were capable of developing a lead early on in games. They were a team that chased others during the game and only squeaked it out in the dying minutes. They never took games by storm or shocked the opponent’s defense with their sheer scoring power and vicious tempo. Instead, they were constantly in the hunt, always looking for the right opportunities to strike. This made watching the games extremely exciting, and I began to get used to waiting for Stafford to pull out another late game comeback. It was extremely stressful, and I was always worried about how we were ever going to survive in the postseason. Yet, I still believed in the 8 year man out of Georgia, and everyone surrounding him. They had made it to the postseason, and I had seen some incredible things from them earlier in the year.
M.I.A.: The Lions I Saw Early on
I saw a Marvin Jones Jr. who was nothing short of dangerous downfield and was producing crazy numbers early on. I watched Golden Tate make an entire army of Vikings players miss as he stylishly flipped into the end zone, icing the game. I saw Matt Prater hit field goals like it was nothing, and it felt great knowing that we had someone to count on late. I watched Deandre Levy return after missing a massive chunk of the season and begin to tackle like a madman as he always used to.
Yet, I also saw some worrisome problems. I watched Stafford lose his mind against the Chicago Bears, as he threw a mindless interception. I saw Stafford being bossed around by one of the worst defenses in the league. I watched Theo Riddick go down with an injury and leave the rushing attack of Detroit gasping for air. Don’t get me wrong, Zach Zenner put on a show late in the season, but it was not enough to get the Lion’s through a grueling gauntlet. I watched Matt Prater lose his invincibility, missing kicks that he could normally make in his sleep. Finally, I was forced to live with a completely depleted secondary with the absence of Darius Slay and watch players like Jonathan Bademosi, a special teams player who didn’t even start on the Browns, try to cover Dez Bryant. So folks, in the end, it was only a matter of time before the wheels fell off of the wagon. The question now is, what do they need to do to finally make it over the hump and become a team that makes other franchises shudder with fear?
What Detroit Needs to do
The first step is to get Ameer Abdullah back. The young star from Nebraska could have been a huge impact player for Detroit, and they must get him back to full form in order to establish an efficient rushing attack. This way, Stafford will have less pressure on his shoulders, because while it’s a great way to get down the field in big chunks, passing on every down is not practical in the NFL. Secondly, they need to draft well. In order to help out the secondary, I would love to see Detroit draft a talented corner. Their draft picks in the past have been very questionable, but a hard nosed cornerback who can cover well in all types of coverage is exactly what they need. Kids like Desmond King from Iowa or Jourdan Lewis from Michigan would both be great options. Thirdly, they need Ziggy Ansah to get back to his old self. Ansah only had two sacks this season, compared to a distant number from his 14.5 sacks from the season before. He was in injury trouble all throughout this year, and having him healthy is a must to add some kind of a spark to the Lion’s pass rush. Finally, they need to work hard and believe. From top to bottom in the organization, from the ownership, to the management, all the way to every single practice squad player, the whole program needs to buy in to the goal that should be posted up somewhere at the start of every season: Become a championship team. Every practice, film session, and team work out is an opportunity to better themselves and work hard. They need all the help they can get in achieving a birth to the Super Bowl, and only they can do it in the end. Jim Caldwell is not going anywhere anytime soon, and Stafford is likely going to resign one of the biggest deals in Lions history, so let’s hope that they can buckle down and change it all, starting right now.