Pants, pull-over shirt, shoes, stocking cap – everything was black.
A perfect wardrobe for the mood of the day?
Johnson smiled slightly, and with no joy. It was the way a guy might smile when the drive mistook his compact car for the dumpster on trash pickup day.
Sunday proved to be a tough day all around for the Lions. The outcome – a 34-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings – hurt everyone connected with the Lions.
It didn’t give their record a mortal wound, but their situation is descending close to critical condition, with a 4-5 record and seven games left against some of the best teams in the NFL.
Losing to the Vikings hurt doubly because of the impact on the race for a Wild Card berth in the NFC playoffs. The Vikings improved to 6-4, and with two wins over the Lions this year, they have an edge in the tiebreaker.
Despite the damage he inflicted on Minnesota’s defense –12 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown -- it was a tough game for Johnson. He took two hits to the head. A penalty was called on one but not on the other. What hurt as much as anything was a fourth-quarter fumble after he made a catch that would have given the Lions the ball at midfield.
One word described the day.
“Tough,” Johnson said. “It’s s our division. It’s the second time losing to these guys. All I can do is speak for myself, but there’s a lot more that we could put on the field.”
Johnson was on target with his comments, but I’ll add to them.
There’s a lot more the Lions should NOT do on the field, including Sunday.
Like not give up a 54-yard pass to rookie receiver Jarius Wright that set up Minnesota’s first touchdown. Wright was active for the first time as a pro because of an ankle injury that kept Percy Harvin from playing.
There was no real reason for a raw rookie to get deep, but Wright was able to get behind safety
That was a big play. So was a holding penalty against tackle
Set back to first-and-20, the Lions wound up punting. The Vikings needed only a two-play drive – two runs by Adrian Peterson – to make their lead 31-17.
And late in the game, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder slid feet first on third down, making it a punt situation for the Vikings on fourth down.
Except for one little detail that proved gigantic in the outcome. Defensive tackle
“That wasn’t very smart,” Coach Jim Schwartz said.
No, it wasn’t.
The Lions continue to be a perplexing, up-and-down team. After being so good on third down the previous two weeks – converting 20-of-28 times – they converted only one of nine for the game, and none in the first three quarters.
They held Peterson in check as well as can be expected -- until the game was on the line. The two-play TD drive was two plays by Peterson – a 19-yard run followed by a five-yard penalty for delay of game on the Vikings, followed by the game-breaking 61-yard jaunt.
Peterson busted through a seam and sprinted down the sideline to the end zone. On a drive that officially went 75 yards, Peterson gained 80. That speaks to his greatness.
It also speaks to how the Lions have too many moments that are not so great. It’s been their undoing all year. They can be brilliant at times, as they were much of the second half on offense, when
But the first half was a torture test. The Lions didn’t score a touchdown until Stafford hit
The Lions have been playing from behind most of the season, and twice now against the Vikings they haven’t been able to overcome it against a team that most analysts predicted would finish last in the NFC North.
“Obviously, it’s not the ideal position,” Stafford said when asked about playing from behind.
Being in last place with a 4-5 record and having at least two fewer wins than every team in the division is obviously even further from being ideal.
On a tough day, with a tough loss, it was a fitting time to dress in black.