NFC North: 2013 Week 15 BAL at DET

Calvin Johnson Leon Halip/Getty ImagesTurnovers and drops -- even by Calvin Johnson -- resulted in another late loss for the Lions.

DETROIT -- The mantras seem empty now, feel more hollow than before. All week the Detroit Lions talked about more focus, more urgency and how Monday night was supposed to be the start of a final push to the playoffs.

And it might be a push that ended before it really started, a playoff run halted by a combination of the foot of Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker and the same follies that plagued the Lions from the moment they started to look like an actual playoff contender.

Monday night, in an 18-16 loss to Baltimore that pushed the Lions from leading the NFC North to third place in the division, had all the familiar refrains. Too many turnovers. Bad decisions. The inability to finish a game they led in the fourth quarter.

And add, after all that talk, the feeling of a lack of offensive urgency. It was noticeable from high atop Ford Field as Detroit had drive after drive stall. And it was evident from at least one player, too, that the Lions didn’t have the necessary urgency to win what was essentially a playoff game.

“Nah, nah, it wasn’t,” running back Reggie Bush said of the urgency being there. “It was pretty evident. When we needed to make plays, we just didn’t have it and we got to do a better job. Obviously, turnovers hurt us. I can’t really speak for the defensive side of the ball. …

“Third downs, we had some third-down conversions that we should have came up with, that we can do easy, that we could have made easily. We just didn’t come up with plays and I don’t know.”

That -- the lack of urgency from the offense after it was preached so much by offensive players -- might be the most baffling of all. It's the most glaring piece of evidence something isn’t working in Detroit right now. All week the Lions talked of making plays. Of knowing what a win would mean or what a loss could do.

They could dream about the win, but the loss is the reality -- a loss that came after Detroit’s defense didn’t allow a touchdown.

The offense, other than two drives, couldn’t do much at all.

Detroit now has four losses in its past five games. It committed three or more turnovers in each loss. The Lions had fourth-quarter leads disappear in all of them, and now they have a head coach, Jim Schwartz, potentially two games from not being the head coach anymore.

“The only assurance we need is we have two games to play and we’re one down in our division,” Schwartz said. “That’s the only thing we need to worry about. That’s the only thing that we need to concern ourselves with right now.

“We need to find a way to come back with a win against the Giants, go on the road and beat the Vikings and let the dust settle and see where that takes us.”

Right now, that place is not a good one. Even with two wins, they'd need help to win the division.

The Lions said all the things they are supposed to say after a devastating loss -- that they will bounce back and that they will be resilient. Right guard Larry Warford said receiver Nate Burleson preached many of those things to Detroit after the game.

Except they haven’t shown that resiliency -- the kind that won them games in the first half of the season -- since October. Inside the locker room after the game there was no loud music, just players talking in hushed tones about opportunities lost and needing help instead of being able to help themselves.

“Everybody knew,” Warford said, “that we let this one slip.”

This isn’t the first time Detroit has said that. It has been a theme for these Lions since the fake field goal call gone bad against Pittsburgh in Week 11.

Detroit seemed to lose its momentum then, both in the game and the season. When the fake didn’t work, the Steelers took control in the game. Since then, the Lions have won just once.

For so long this season the Lions had said this team was different, was a new and invigorated group that would not fall to the same struggling ways of so many previous Detroit teams. But the same problems showed up again. Another fourth-quarter lead lost. Another game with three or more turnovers. Another game with three or more drops.

Another opportunity, perhaps the final one for Detroit this season, squandered.

“Some of the stuff that happened to us was just kind of self-inflicted,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

That, the self-inflicted punishment, the mistakes and errors and lost leads, are what took the Lions from potential playoff contenders to within two weeks of having their season end.

And maybe Schwartz, who is now clearly in a situation where his job may be in jeopardy, was prophetic with all of this. At the midway point of the season, with his team doing well, he said over and over that the second half of the season would write the story of these Detroit Lions.

So if this was indeed the beginning of the end for Schwartz and for the Lions' playoff chances, the first scene of the final act had drama like Shakespeare and horror like Wes Craven. It had all the heartache of the middle of a romantic comedy disguised in a 61-yard field goal attempt that some of the Detroit players couldn’t even bring themselves to watch.

And as Tucker’s kick sailed through, as the look on the faces of some of the Lions players turned from celebratory to stunned, for the first time all season this had the feeling of a five-act play that would not have a happy ending.

No, potentially not at all.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

December, 16, 2013

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 18-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

What it means: The Lions defense did exactly what it needed to do Monday night: It kept Baltimore from scoring a touchdown. The Lions found a way to lose anyway, putting their season and perhaps the coaching career of Jim Schwartz in jeopardy.

Detroit's team was built on its offense, with the firepower of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush as well as an emerging quarterback in Matthew Stafford. Stafford threw three interceptions. The Lions scored two touchdowns -- on the first drive of the game and another on their last -- and showed almost no urgency in between. It was just a completely brutal loss for Detroit. This was a team that at one point looked poised to win the division.

Now, at 7-7, the Lions are third in the NFC North and a team that will need a lot of help to make the playoffs.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Detroit's defense. Saddled by an ineffective offense for much of the day, the Lions didn't allow a touchdown and held Ray Rice to 56 yards rushing and Torrey Smith to 69 yards receiving. They also pressured Joe Flacco fairly well for most of the game, keeping him off balance. Falling -- Stafford's accuracy. In addition to the three interceptions, he had a completion percentage under 55 for the fourth time in the past six games.

Fauria reappears: He had not caught a pass since Week 12 against Tampa Bay, but Joseph Fauria grabbed what was the go-ahead touchdown on a tough pass over the middle in the end zone. It was perhaps Stafford's best throw of the day and also a very, very difficult catch by the rookie tight end. He has 12 receptions this season. Seven of them are touchdowns.

What's next: The Lions have their home finale Sunday against the New York Giants followed by a trip to Minnesota to close the regular season.
DETROIT -- His experience is minimal with 20 defensive snaps this season. And now, in the biggest game of the season for the Detroit Lions, on national television against the Baltimore Ravens, one of the starting cornerbacks will be Jonte Green.

Green was inactive for some games earlier this season and was essentially the last option for the Lions at cornerback when he was active. He will now have to cover Marlon Brown and be effective in his role.

Veteran Rashean Mathis is expected to line up opposite Baltimore's top target, Torrey Smith.

Green landed in this role due to injuries to starter Chris Houston and top reserve Darius Slay, both of whom are inactive for the Lions on Monday night. Detroit now has Mathis, Green, Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood, who has never played an NFL game, as its active corners.

The Lions' other inactives were as expected as well: quarterback Kellen Moore, running back Mikel Leshoure, guard Leroy Harris, tackle Jason Fox and guard Rodney Austin.