Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Game 14 - Baltimore Ravens @ Home (losing the division lead)

All the above.

The Lions lose the Ravens game at home 16-18 and lose control of winning the division by going to 7-7, behind the Bears and Packers. Before this game all they needed to do was win 3 games in a row to finish and no one could take the playoffs away from them, even giving them a home game the first week. Now they need both the Bears and the Packers to lose one game out of the next two and also the Lions need to win their last 2 games to win the division. If they do not win the division they do not make the playoffs. Lions have now lost 4 of their last 5 games.

Stafford was a putrid 18 of 34 for 235 yards 1 TD and 3 INTs. He was highly inaccurate throughout the game, and indeed, throughout the season. When he does throw correctly no one is more accurate, but just about as often he is off, by a few feet in most cases, often with disastrous results. Yes, it's true, his WRs drop passes, more then they should, but even the passes they catch are often bailing Stafford out instead of being on target... so that evens out. (Whether you like to hear that or not). But Stafford was not at fault for losing this game.

The Officiating earns second spot in tonight's blog. Phantom calls before the half allowed the Ravens to get one of their field goals, and another probably cost the Lions 4 points in the 2nd half. There were a couple of none calls that might have helped the Lions late in the game, but the right side line judge was for most of the game very one sided, and he apparently is a Raven's fan (or at least should be, still, if not, the Ravens are now a fan of his). But the officiating was not at fault for losing this game.

The Lions defense allowed 222 yards through the air and another 90 yards on the ground. They gave up 6 field goals (the last one being nearly 61 yards for the lead and eventual win). They did not give up a touchdown though. They in fact held Flacco to fewer yards then Stafford had. However, they created zero turnovers. But the Lions defense was not at fault for losing this game.

The Lions coaching staff had timeouts remaining when the Ravens were held to a 4th down and facing a 61 yard field goal attempt or possibly going for it on 4th down. The Lions did not call a timeout to give them more time in case the field goal was made and allowed time to drain off the clock. I have no issue with that as who's to say the Ravens weren't going to go for it and calling a time out would've allowed them time to think over the play. What I do have a small issue with is some of the plays called prior to the Lions retaking the lead. Scoring from roughly the 24 yard line when they could've gone for a 1st down and drained more clock... I get that it's harder to score the needed TD as you get closer to the goal line but time was as much the enemy as not scoring. Anyway, it wasn't the coaching staff's fault this game was lost.

Various other players messed up here and there throughout the game solidly putting them in the "not helpful" category. Penalties that were legit could've been avoided... tackles missed could've been made... blocks missed shouldn't have been. And so the story goes, but these small additions to the awkward playing style of the Lions was not the reason the game was lost.

No, no the reason the game was lost, the blame can be solidly placed, on ALL THE ABOVE. From coaching to QB play, from offense to defense to special teams to officiating, you can blame all of the above and call it a night.

One could even say (and SHOULD say) that if the Lions don't make the playoffs (and the odds are very bad as of now) that this game wasn't the reason, but any of the close losses during the season that should've been wins putting the Lions out of reach in these last few weeks was the problem. The lack of focus. The penalties. The lack of making the QB better throughout the season (read as no QB coach). Losing the momentum that was there prior to the bye week. On and on and on I could go. The Lions lost this game but more importantly, they lost the probability of making the playoffs not tonight, but over the past 5 weeks, multiple times. You can say it's a team that doesn't know how to be successful, or afraid of success, or lacking discipline, and someone somewhere will say "all the above" and probably not be wrong.

The Lions have 2 games left, they must win both and the Bears and the Packers must each lose one game. The odds are long. I have to believe that the odds of the Lions coaching staff retaining their jobs should they not make the playoffs are equally poor, at least for some of them. After watching this game, after watching this season, and despite how much I despise the hiring process of a new coaching staff along with new schemes, new playbooks, and the general rebuilding that goes on when staff turnover happens... well, I have to join those calling for the coaching staff to be fired. I'm not sure it will happen as Schwartz received an extension not that long ago and firing him might be very expensive, too much for Ford to agree to... but that won't stop me from siding with those that believe this team can not win in (or get to) the playoffs because the coaching staff is having a negative impact on the talent that is on the team. To put it simply, they are not getting the job done!

Someone somewhere is going to tell me that maybe the coaching staff is doing a great job (or they will insist the Lions coaches are definitely doing a great job) and that the record would be much worse if these coaches weren't in place. If that's truly the case (and I do not believe it for a minute) then the talent isn't what we all think it is and therefor the GM should be fired along with others in the front office. Of course, if that happens, the new front office will replace the coaching staff anyway (because that's what new front offices do) and the blame means nothing then anyway.

So whether you think it's bad drafting and/or free agency, or coaching, or the players (which reflects back on the front office), or in most cases, all of the above, you are probably already asking for heads to roll, even though the Lions still have a long shot of making the playoffs (despite the coaching, or the talent, or the front office). I'm there with you, quietly for now, but will get louder in the coming weeks if what happens happens as I suspect it will.

My prediction for next week, a Lions win. A loss takes them out of the playoff picture pretty much completely (if not mathematically) so to drag this out to the last minute of the last quarter of the last game of the season, it is necessary for the Lions to win next week... and that is obviously what will happen, right? Of course it is.

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