After a disappointing 24-21 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, all hope is not lost for the Lions (6-5) who are tied atop the NFC North with the Chicago Bears (6-5) who lost 42-21 to the St. Louis Rams. The Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) tied the Vikings so they are a half game back.
As Jim Schwartz said after the loss, it's now a five-game season.
This sets up quite the Thanksgiving game against the Packers. Basically the Lions have to win. They lost to the Packers at Green Bay early in the season.
Here are five concerns moving forward:
1. The secondary has not played well. While the defensive front seven, for the most part, has done its job, the secondary has struggled. Louis Delmas has been up and down. Hard to tell, but it looked like it was Delmas who jumped on an underneath route allowing the 85-yard Bucs touchdown that put them ahead early in the fourth quarter. Chris Houston, who injured his foot on that play on Sunday, has had a rocky stretch. Glover Quin has played most of the season on a bad ankle. At this point in the season there’s not much the Lions can do. There are no Pro Bowl corners sitting on their couch waiting for a phone call. The guys they’ve got must step it up.
2. Receivers have to catch the ball. It’s basic, but it’s not always happening which leads to interceptions which lead to losses. On the Lion’s final drive, Calvin Johnson said he had the ball in his hands, was turning to move upfield and “bang, bang” it was gone. He’s Megatron, he has to hold onto the ball. That wasn’t the first time this season the ball has come off Calvin for an interception. It’s not just him. Drops are a widespread issue.
3. Matthew Stafford has to be more consistent. He could be one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, but until the Lions win all the games they should (like Sunday’s) he won’t be put in that class. Clearly all four interceptions were not on him, but he has to make better decisions. The offensive line, for the most part, is keeping him upright. The offense has had six bad quarters and part of that is on Stafford.
4. The defensive line played better on Sunday, putting more pressure on Bucs’ quarterback Mike Glennon than they did against Ben Roethlisberger the week before. Part of it was having Ziggy Ansah return. (He had two sacks which gives him five for the season.) Still early on it looked like Glennon had too much time to get the ball out.
5. Focus. The only important thing is Green Bay because that’s the next game. Prior to Sunday the players and coaches swore they weren’t looking past Tampa Bay, but I wonder. It sounds odd, but several of these players are learning how to win. This is not an excuse just fact. They can not let up on the gas pedal. Remember in 2011 they started 5-0, but finished 5-6. They made it to the playoffs, but the game wasn’t even close. They are more talented this year. They need to prove on every snap how much they want it.