Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Monday, November 16, 2009
Third and one: Lions

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After Detroit’s 27-10 loss at Minnesota, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:

  1. No need to pile on here. The Lions’ pass defense is horrid, a fact more than illustrated in every statistic you can find. So I’ll go counterclockwise and point out one bright spot, at least Sunday: Cornerback William James displayed some exceptionally tight coverage and played a role in breaking up four passes, including one that would have gone for a touchdown to Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian. That figure is especially significant considering quarterback Brett Favre had only nine incompletions among his 29 attempts. The Lions are the fourth team James has played for in nine years, so I don’t think he can be considered a long-term solution. But Sunday, his play was noticed -- and we can’t say that about many other Lions players.
  2. I wasn’t a big fan of coach Jim Schwartz’s approach on the 4th-and-1 situation on the Vikings’ 48-yard line in the third quarter. The Lions trailed 17-10 and had some offensive momentum. Schwartz left his offense on field, but they didn’t run a play before quarterback Matthew Stafford called a timeout. It’s possible the Lions ran out of time, but it sure looked like Stafford was trying to draw the Vikings' defensive line offsides. Absent that penalty, Detroit punted. I understand where Schwartz was coming from. The Vikings had been exceptionally aggressive up front and certainly had candidates to jump the snap. But based on how the game was going at the time, I thought the Lions had a decent chance to convert. Regardless, I didn’t like wasting a timeout on that gambit in the second half of a one-score game.
  3. For me, none of the Lions’ free-agent acquisitions have been more disappointing that receiver Bryant Johnson. I had him with two drops Sunday, which would bring him to at least seven drops on the season, based on video review from ESPN’s Stats & Information. His failure to catch Stafford’s stunning pass into the end zone late in the second quarter cost the Lions four points.

And here is one question I’m still asking:
Who knew a tooth ache could be so, uh, impactful? The Lions sure didn’t when they decided to include safety Louis Delmas among their 45 active players Sunday. Delmas is a rookie and probably wasn’t comfortable telling his coaches that an infected tooth might keep him from playing. The Lions took their cues from Delmas. I don’t think this made the difference in the game, but the miscommunication left the Lions’ already overmatched pass defense undermanned as well.