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Lions Show Benefits and Struggles of Having Young Talent

Posted Nov 9, 2009

The Lions showed signs of being in the beginning stages of growth Sunday at Seattle with players showing both talent and youth that helped Detroit climb to a 17-0 lead and then stumble to a 32-20 loss at the end.

“After watching the tape of this (game), it’s really hard to believe that we had the ball and a chance to win the game at the end,” said Head Coach Jim Schwartz. “It was a game filled with errors.”

The first quarter was exactly what every Lions fan was hoping for: turnovers that led to touchdowns.

Those scoring drives also featured players the Lions hope are rising stars: safety Louis Delmas with his first-career interception, quarterback Matthew Stafford with a 7-yard touchdown completion to tight end Brandon Pettigrew for his first-career catch in the endzone.

That young talent also comes with a price, however. Stafford threw five interceptions in the game – two in the second quarter and three down the stretch – that hurt the team as a whole. Schwartz doesn’t place all responsibility in the hands of Stafford, but there will be much to learn from this game for the rookie quarterback.

“There were a couple of decisions that needed to be better in there and there’s a difference being aggressive and then being prudent,” said Schwartz. “They played single-high coverage (on a third-down play) and (Stafford) dropped the ball right down the chimney. Bryant (had) a great a catch and we scored a touchdown.

“We were already in field goal range and you’d be able to say, ‘Well, let’s not take a chance here. Let’s not make that.’ But the situation was right.”

There was definitely risk and reward. Some of Stafford’s chances resulted in brilliance while others came out looking the opposite. Even so, Stafford shouldn’t be the only one looked at in regards to the five interceptions.

Four of the five came in 3rd-and-long situations, something Schwartz says the offense as a whole needs to do a better job at avoiding.

“There are a lot of Pro Bowl quarterbacks in this league and if they get to third-and-13 or third-and-14, I mean, they almost concede the down because they don’t want to make a mistake down the field,” said Schwartz.

“We’re really not at that point as a team that we can do that because we need to take advantage of every opportunity that we have. We just have to be smarter in those situations.”

Another glaring point in this game was that wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who played in his first game since suffering a knee injury October 11, only had two catches for 27 yards.

Why the Lions can’t get the ball to their featured receiver is a concern, though there were opportunities that came and went for various reasons. Schwartz says it is yet another result of the Lions growing as an offense and as a team.

“We’re still a work in progress on offense,” he said. “We still have a long way to go and (with) fitting other people around him and different things like that. But I haven’t been displeased at all with (Johnson). He came back from the knee. He looked good. Is he 100-percent? Probably not, but he’s close enough that he can go out and make plays like he did in the game.

“We need more from him but we need more from everybody. Defenses know he’s a great player. They know what he’s capable of doing and they’re going to try to take everything that they can to keep him from making plays down the field.”

Johnson, as was the rest of the team, was feeling the frustrations of the loss after film sessions Monday afternoon.

“We didn’t put the dagger in them when we had them down, so it’s tough,” he said, “but it’s something we have to live with. We have to go back and look at the execution that we did, and try to learn from our mistakes.

“I missed a couple. There were two that I should have had. We all have to be accountable for what we do out there on the field.”