Lions playoff hopes all but over
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
|Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is brought down by Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosh during the second half of their NFL football game in Detroit, Michigan November 18, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
DETROIT -- This was not what was supposed to happen to the Detroit Lions.
Ten games into the NFL season, the Lions were supposed to be comfortably in the race for a playoff spot, if not well ahead of the race.
Instead, the Lions are looking up at everyone in their division and trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
The Lions season is all but over thanks to a 24-20 defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers Sunday. It leaves the Lions with a 4-6 record and last in the NFC North. It would take more than just running the table in their six remaining games for the Lions to make it to the postseason. It would also take the collapse of several other teams and that's just not going to happen.
The Lions are saying all the right words about not giving up but it would take the finish of all storybook finishes for it to happen.
The Lions came of age last year. They had a dynamic offence that looked unstoppable. They had a slew of players on defence, many of them young, who played mean and ugly and looked to be getting only better.
Instead they played uglier.
Professional football is a cruel mistress. It doesn't take much for the good to turn into the ugly.
But there was a common theme in the Lions locker room after the game.
It had to do with a mirror and having a good look at the image in it. It's where most Lions think improvement needs to begin.
Trying to pinpoint just what went wrong with the Lions is, well, like trying to make a hole in a bucket full of water. The second you take water out, the space just fills up again.
It started early with injuries. The Lions defensive secondary was decimated and the turnstile replacements couldn't cope. Most Lions' games came down to the final possession, with the win usually going to whoever had the ball last.
The defensive edge with which the Lions played last year never emerged. Most if the criticism fell to the defensive line, especially Ndamukong Suh, who was a regular target of anonymous scouts and general managers who called him out for playing well below his potential.
Offensively, the Lions were hampered when speedy Jahvid Best was lost for the season.
The Lions seemed unable to start quickly. They usually wound up trying to stage a fourth-quarter rally. Quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn't as accurate and his receivers couldn't find the same space they did last year. Too many scoring drives wound up as turnovers or field goals.
Offensively, the Lions looked scattered and unprepared. There was at least one exchange between offensive co-ordinator Scott Linehan and wide receivers' coach Shawn Jefferson.
"Anytime you're not successful, nothing is going to look good," said Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz.
Going into the game, the Lions were the No. 2 offence in the league but it shows you how numbers can lie.
Sunday was a perfect example of a game the Lions should have won, especially since the Packers hardly looked like a dominant team.
Up by three and marching, they drove to the Packers 12 with a first down. After three plays they lost yardage and had to settle for a field goal to push the lead to six. With more than four minutes left though, and Aaron Rodgers under centre, the Lions needed seven, not three.
It took 2:36 for Rodgers to put a six-play, 82-yard drive together that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.
Game, set, match and probably season.
A team that was without question a favourite to make the playoffs now has to win out and hope for plenty of magic to happen.
Stafford was sour. He gave up a interception for a touchdown and looked out of synch with his receivers all game.
"I just didn't play well," he said and when asked why, "just not making enough throws."
One thing the Lions didn't want to hear was that their season was over.
"The season is not over, man. We've got six games left," said Lions' Calvin Johnson. "I don't know what the picture looks like, you know, but that's what we're fighting for. We're fighting for our lives."