Burning questions – defensive breakdowns, bad penalties, an even worse punt, losing receivers – in the Lions' 35-33 loss to the Colts at Ford Field on Sunday.
Q. Defensive collapse: The Colts scored two TDs in the last 2:30 on drives of 85 and 75 yards to win the game. What were the biggest issues?
A. A bad penalty compounded by bad plays on the first drive, and overall breakdowns by the defense on the second drive did the Lions in.
In both drives, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck converted plays on third and fourth down. Against an experienced defense, that was getting a good rush most of the game, that was unforgiveable.
Q. Penalty: What was the penalty that hurt the Lions on the first drive, and why was it such a big deal?
A. On 4th-and-2 from the Colts 23, and 3:29 left when the ball was snapped, Luck broke through a lane up the middle for an eight-yard gain. For one thing, Luck shouldn't have had a lane. The pressure should have been in his face, forcing him to throw high and inaccurately, as he did often in the game.
Compounding the miscue, the penalty stopped the clock. Luck's run took only six seconds off the clock. If Fairley hadn't gotten the penalty, the ball would have been back 15 yards – to the 31 instead of the 46 – and another 25-30 seconds could have gone off the clock.
Q. Secondary breakdown: LaVon Brazill caught a 42-yard TD pass behind veteran cornerback
A. None. No forgiveness. It was a bad play, by Florence, and he owned up to it.
"If I don't let the guy get behind me in Cover 4, it's probably over," he said.
Cover 4 is a defense that basically has four deep backs covering deep. There is no reason for a receiver to get behind the coverage. If Luck had dumped the ball short, it wouldn't have been a big deal. Just come up and make the tackle, and let the Colts use up a timeout or let the clock run down.
Instead, the cheap touchdown got the Colts within five points (33-28).
Q. Running out the clock: A lot was made of the Lions running the ball on their last three plays, instead of throwing the ball to
A. What works is right. What doesn't work is wrong. In my column, I say not throwing the ball to Calvin Johnson on any of the plays in crunch time is wrong.
Also, good teams can run out the clock with a running game. But the Lions have tried that this year and failed. Late in the game against Green Bay, they had 1st-and-goal and ran
On Thanksgiving Day against Houston in overtime, two runs by
And in what could have been the clinching sequence against the Colts, a run by Bell and two by Leshoure did not gain a first down. The Lions couldn't run out the clock. They punted, and the Colts drove to the winning touchdown.
Q. Running theory: But isn't it sound football to put the game away with the running game?
A. Yes, but if you have a history of not being able to do it, go with your best – Calvin Johnson.
Q. Short punt: How much were the Lions hurt by a 25-yard punt by
A. Coach Jim Schwartz described the punt in a word: "Terrible."
And that might not have been strong enough. The punt was short and out of bounds. Anything would have been better. A short punt that hit the turf would have taken a few more seconds off the clock. A longer punt – down to the 10-yard line or so – would have put the Colts on a longer field.
A. The statement is that he isn't wanted because his presence is a distraction, and his teammates don't want him around. Young has no future with the Lions. I'd be surprised if he is active for another game this year.
The only impact Young has had lately is negative. He hurt the Lions in more than one way Sunday. When
It didn't excuse losing the way they did, but it shows how much damage one player can do to a team.