Q. Rate the loss. When was the last one that was this bad?
A. The real answer to that question is that when you are rating losses, you’re talking about a team that has bottomed out and is playing with no real purpose. And that is the unfortunate state the Lions have put themselves in, and it will haunt them until the start of next season.
Losing to a team as bad as the Cardinals, who’d lost nine straight going into the game and had to suffer all week from a 58-0 loss at Seattle the previous week leaves them without any redeeming qualities from this season.
Q. Is there no redemption?
A. One exception –
Q. Back to rating the losses. When was the last one that was as bad as losing to the Cardinals?
A. It’s the worst loss since Game 9 of 2010 – a 14-12 loss at Buffalo. The Bills were 0-8 going into the game, and they didn’t do anything special except win the game. The Lions had more yards, more first downs – more of a lot of things that wound up not meaning a lot.
There have been other losses since then that were more meaningful – like losing to New Orleans in the playoffs last season, or three straight at home this season to the Packers, Texans and Colts. But in terms of simply playing bad football, with no hint of inspiration, losing to Arizona ranks as the worst in two and a half seasons.
Q. Key exchange: What was the ultimate deciding point?
A. It was a penalty on the offense for delay of game that wiped out a touchdown pass to
On fourth down two plays later,
It was game over – and a long , miserable ride home.
Q. Matchup : Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said he wanted to cover Calvin Johnson and show that he’s an elite player. How did Peterson hold up?
A. He’s a terrific young player, and he played well. He got an interception on an overthrow by Matthew Stafford that set up a touchdown. For a cornerback, that’s considered a win.
Q. On the line: The Cardinals haven’t been able to protect the quarterback all year, giving up a league-high 51 sacks. They neutralized the Lions’ pass rush most of the game.
A. It wasn’t any better up front on offense, with false starts and holding penalties. Stafford didn’t play well, but he was hit – and hit hard – all game.
Q. Trend – A screen pass in the fourth quarter lost three yards. Hasn’t that been a weakness all season?
A. Yes, and it continues to be a surprise that they continue to go to it. It seems it would be a better idea to force the ball to Calvin Johnson than to continue to pound away at something that hasn’t worked – and shows no signs of ever working.
Q. Special teams: What happened on the fumbled punt by
A. Logan was looking up at the ball, and teammate
If there was any fault on Logan’s part, it was that he could have taken a quick look to see who was coming down on him. But realistically, his job is to catch the ball first. That was on Lee. He caused the fumble.
Q. Clock management: The Cardinals scored their third TD on an interception return in the last minute of the first half to make it 21-7. At the start of that possession, could the Lions have done a better job of managing the clock?
A. Absolutely. The possession started at their 20 with 3:16 left, and they ran only two plays before the two-minute warning. They had all three timeouts left, too.
Down 14-7, the Lions should have been in aggressive attack mode, but they weren’t. It looked like they couldn’t wait for the half to end. We’ve talked before about killer instinct, or the lack of it, and this was an example of where it was lacking.
They got a first down on a third-down pass completion – and didn’t run another play until after 36 seconds had run off the clock.
Instead of huddling, the offense should have been on the ball, dictating tempo. Instead, it was back on its heels, letting the Cardinals feel better about themselves as every second rained off the clock.
Q. The pick: Wasn’t all that made meaningless by Rashad Johnson’s interception return for a TD that made it 21-7?
A. No, it wasn’t meaningless. If you’re going to be a good football team, you do little things right all the time. Every play counts.
If there was any lesson for the Lions this year, it’s that every play counts.