Head Coach Jim Schwartz knows this is a bottom-line league.
So, even though he was pleased with the effort put forth by his team this Sunday against the Steelers, the bottom line is that it wasn’t enough.
“You are what your record says you are,” he said. “We’re a 1-4 football team coming off a tough loss. We have a lot of work to do with a lot of issues that we have to deal with this next week to go on the road to Lambeau to win for the first time since 1991. That’s what we are; a 1-4 football team and we have a lot of work to do.”
The natural follow-up to that statement is: “How much work is left?”
The Lions had moments of strength during yesterday’s game against the Steelers and moments of difficulty last week at Chicago.
Which of those versions is closest to the “real” Detroit Lions?
“Every week is different,” said Schwartz. “I really don’t know how to answer that because we’re both of those teams. We’re also the team that beat the Redskins. We’re the team that got up 10-0 on the Vikings and got (outscored) 27-3 as we finished that one.
“We are what we’ve put on tape. I don’t want to say we’re closer to one than the other.”
Schwartz delivered that same message to the team: all that matters is a win.
He cited an example from a Pittsburgh-Houston game he remembered from years ago, pointing out that Houston won the game with less than 100 yards of total offense.
“Pittsburgh had about 400, but they had a couple of turnovers that led to scores,” he said. “Then (Houston) scored on special teams and they won fairly going away.”
Schwartz said there was no asterisk on the scoreboard or in the record books. Houston won the game even though it wasn’t a great-looking victory.
“The object isn’t to win pretty, the object isn’t to lose gracefully or anything else,” he said. “The object is to win the game and that’s the only thing that we’re concerned with.
“We’re not concerned with out-rushing the other team; we’re not concerned with out-sacking the other team or anything other than out-pointing the other team. That’s the only thing we’re going to take solace in.”
Though Schwartz isn’t going to take comfort in the positives, there were some in Sunday’s game. There were also negatives.
Positives included strong performances by wide receivers
“(He) had a couple nice returns,” said Schwartz. “We were much more consistent on our kickoff return. They sort of snuffed it out I think the third time – we only got to the 16 or something like that. But we were a lot more aggressive; we were a lot more north-south.
“It was nice to see him out there. He made some plays.”
The defense also picked up play as the game went on. The secondary coverage got better in pass protection, allowing the defensive line to get to the quarterback; all of Detroit’s three sacks came in the second half.
“We did a better job in coverage and forced Roethlisberger to hold the ball a little bit longer to get time to get there,” said Schwartz. “Usually versus the blitz, it’s hard to sack a quarterback because usually they get rid of the ball beforehand. He was holding the ball because there weren’t guys open.”
On the negative side of things, Schwartz wants to see his secondary get better against the run.
“When somebody breaks for a long touchdown run, where they crease you or bounce outside, your secondary needs to get those guys down and needs to give you the chance to fight again,” said Schwartz.
“You shouldn’t have longer than 12-yard runs if your secondary is doing a good job, so there are a lot of issues back there from assignment, to tackling, to pass defense and we’re going to look at all of them.”
Schwartz also wants to see fewer penalties offensively in addition to getting the ball out sooner.
“We were in second-and-long, first-and-20, second-and-11-plus and third-and-11-plus (too much),” said Schwartz. “I think there were 17 snaps of either first-and-15 or more, second-and-11 or more, or third-and-11 or more. It was almost 25 percent of our snaps.”
A STOCK PILE OF INJURIES
Schwartz doesn’t want to point to injuries, because he says that’s making excuses, but the Lions have had more than their fair share over the last two weeks.
Among others, starting quarterback
Even though Detroit has a bye week following this road trip, he isn’t going to sit Stafford – or any other player for that matter – just to get two consecutive weeks of rest.
“We’re trying to win this football game,” said Schwartz. “We’ll see where he is and see how he’s trending. If he’s trending up and he’s improving and we can get him snaps then we have a good chance to get him on the field. If not, then we won’t.
“That has nothing to do with an eye toward the bye week and we can get him an extra week of rest or anything else. Our objective is to win this game. We have to win this game.”
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson left Sunday’s game early with a knee injury. While there was no definitive update, Schwartz doesn’t think the injury is too serious.
“(He) had some tests done,” he said. “We’ll know more on Wednesday. My code (word is) ‘significant,’ I wouldn’t label his (injury) significant right now.”