On Sunday the Lions added another chapter to their season of disappointment.
The Lions fell 35-33 to the Colts, which could initially give the impression that this was a hard-fought game where Detroit just came up short. Things are not always as they appear. Cementing themselves as the least-clutch team of 2012, the Lions held a 33-21 lead late in the 4th quarter only to give up two touchdowns in the last three minutes. If it weren’t so pathetic it would almost be impressive.
The Colts got the ball on their own 15 yard-line down 11 points with 4:02 remaining in the game. After some passes, quarterback runs, and an inevitable ill-timed personal foul against Nick Fairley, Andrew Luck found LaVon Brazil wide open for a touchdown with 2:39 remaining. Detroit got the ball back and, after a first down, predictably punted and gave the Colts one last opportunity. Andrew Luck took over at his own 25 yard line with 1:07 remaining and 0 timeouts.
I can say with virtual certainty, despite not being there, that the crowd at Ford Field was anything but positive at this point. You don’t end up in Ford Field draped in Lions attire without developing some serious skepticism about Detroit’s ability to close games. Perhaps the Lions defense felt this, too, enabling them to give up a frighteningly-easy drive down the field. With no timeouts, the Colts got down the field fast enough to get multiple shots at the end zone before finally scoring on the last play of the game.
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So what to make of all this? To me, this game demonstrates the most frustrating aspect of the Detroit Lions. I truly believe they would be a lot easier to watch if they would just do a little worse. The Lions find a way to stay in every game until the very end, usually falling in dramatic fashion. Wouldn’t everything be easier if they made their losing intentions known from the get-go?
There are teams like the Lions every year. Teams that appear to have the talent to compete with any other NFL franchise, yet who underachieve and find a way to lose far more games than they should. Previous Lions teams can be left out of this description because until recently the Lions found a way to lose with bad teams. Now they are applying the same concept to a much more talented group.
A lot has been made about Detroit’s 4th quarter offense in 2012. What isn’t mentioned as frequently is the reasoning behind this. For much of the year, the Lions have gotten off to dreadful starts and have forced themselves to battle from behind in nearly every game. Recently, Detroit has played relatively strong for much of the game and then squandered leads in the 4th quarter. That doesn’t sound like a good 4th quarter team; that sounds like a team that can’t play a complete game and does enough to lose either early or late in a contest.
Detroit controlled much of Sunday’s game. Their offense was able to move with ease, while their defense did a good job making plays. The Lions made plays throughout the game, but when it came time to close the deal they just couldn’t do it. Detroit doesn’t have a team that is able to step up and do what is necessary to win games. They have the talent to sport the league’s #2 offense, but the numbers and stats are meaningless when the game is on the line. Detroit has established their talent. They have weaknesses, but not enough to justify their 4-8 record.
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Having the best receiver in the game and getting him the ball 13 times for 171 yards is helpful to your team, but it also doesn’t mean jack when you can’t get him the ball to ice the game. Brandon Pettigrew made several important catches, yet dropped a pass that would have put the Lions in touchdown position instead of settling for a field goal. The Lions defense did a great job pressuring and confusing Luck until the last 3 minutes, when they allowed 2 full-field drives to lose the game. There is something about this team that isn’t right, and no matter how much they improve their roster, the Detroit Lions aren’t going anywhere until they learn how to win.