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Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 Game 11 - Tamba Bay Buccaneers @ Home


Pressure

The (now) 6-5 Detroit Lions lost to the (now) 3-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 21-24. The Detroit Lions simply refuse to take ownership of the NFC North by winning their way to division champs. However, the Chicago Bears lost today to the Rams and the Green Bay Packers finished in a tie with the Minnesota Vikings which means the Detroit Lions remain in 1st place anyway. In 4 days the Lions play the Packers on Thanksgiving day, it should be an interesting match-up to say the least. Just about ever fan on the planet now expects the Lions to lose. I am curious to see how they handle the pressure of a nationally televised game.

Matthew Stafford had yet another horrible game, completing 26 of 46 for 297 yards, 3 TDs and 4 INTs. Many of his teammates contributed to the loss, but in my mind, Stafford crumpled under pressure and contributed the most to the loss.

Some fans want to throw the loss onto the feet of the defense, but that same defense held the Bucs to 39 rushing yards (less the negative 17 yards for the QB) and that same QB was held to only 14 completions. The problem is those 14 completions netted 247 yards and 2 TDs... and the Lions defense created zero turnovers once again.

Some fans want to put the blame on the Lions coaching staff, but the only part that I blame them for is failing to help the players handle the pressure of winning.

The momentum from the wins before the bye week is all gone now. The two losses since actually has the fans and the players going in the wrong direction. Many fans have actually given up on the season already, even though the Lions still are 1st in the division. The problem now seems to be that the team (and the fans) don't know how to handle success. The pressure to win, to make the playoffs, is causing the players to bumble and fumble their way through the game, and causing the fans to turn on a dime with every bad play. There was no home field advantage this week. May not be next week either unless the team has some big time plays early in the game and then keeps doing them throughout the day. The players and the coaching staff needs to handle this pressure, otherwise there really is no reason to get to post season as the team won't handle the pressure of the playoffs any better. I haven't exactly got the formula for success at this point, but the players have forgotten how to have fun and just play... they are putting so much pressure on themselves that it's an impossible situation. Hopefully someone of note in that organization figures out that they are putting too much pressure on themselves and gets them to stop, coaching staff and players alike.

Maybe the upcoming nationally televised game will get their collective minds off the playoffs and on to the game itself. It is also possible the added pressure will make them fold like a broken chair. That is why I am anxious to see the next game. It could easily be a turning point in the season, or it could signal the end.

There is a hierarchy in the Lions that has to handle this pressure to win, it starts with Schwartz, goes to Linehan and Cunningham, then quickly goes to Matthew Stafford, followed by Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson and the rest of the team (and let's not forget special teams). Everyone on the team needs to keep their focus under the pressure to win, and enjoying the game again is a large part of that. The same goes for the 12th man, that is to say, the fans who go to the game. Everyone needs to first relax, have fun, and then focus on winning the game helping in any way they can.

I desperately want to predict a win on turkey day, I know the Lions have the talent to win, I'm just not sure that all those who go to Ford Field on Thursday will handle the pressure well enough to win the game. Here's hoping.

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