After the 14-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals (9-1) on Sunday, the Lions (7-3) have to move on. It wasn’t a good loss (are they ever?) but it certainly does not mean they can’t still have a successful season.
If the Lions win their final three home games they will finish 10-6. Is that enough to win the NFC North title? Probably not, but should be good for a wild-card bid. That's not a given, nothing is in the NFL>
It doesn’t get easier. The Lions face the Patriots in New England next Sunday.
Here are five things the Lions need to fix:
1. Too many penalties. Please don’t blame the officials. Yes, there was quite a discrepancy in the number of penalties called on Detroit (nine) and Arizona (four), but it’s just too much. Too many silly whistles including Julian Stanford’s taunting call late in the game. The Lions had 10 penalties in the win over the Dolphins. While it was glossed over most of the week in public because of the win, I’m quite certain it was addressed to the players by coach Jim Caldwell.
2. Getting wide receivers open and find them when they are. Give credit to the Cardinals’ secondary, but Matthew Stafford has quite a tandem in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. The offense should be thriving with that pair and it’s not.
3. While much is made of the front four on defense — and mostly deservingly so — they never sacked Drew Stanton. The Cardinals’ offense line was not the best but the Lions could not exploit that. Stafford was sacked four times.
4. Joique Bell had a good day (14 carries, 85 yards) but the running game still has room for improvement. They have to come through on third-and-1s and fourth-and-1s. On Sunday they didn’t.
5. It is a new offense and coordinator Joe Lombardi is calling plays for the first time. He’s succeeded in those fourth-quarter comebacks, but several plays seemed questionable on Sunday. Each play is scrutinized each week win or lose, so this week will be no different. It’s been tough with personnel changing week to week due to injuries, but this talented offense should have found more of a rhythm after 10 games.