LIONS INSIDER

FOUR DOWNS: Lions need wins to revive playoff hopes

Posted Dec 3, 2017

Four downs following the Lions' 44-20 loss to the Ravens includes playoff hopes, Stafford's injury, defensive effort and Green's debut.

FIRST DOWN: PLAYOFF HOPES

Head coach Jim Caldwell has been in this position before. Back in 2010, his Indianapolis Colts lost three straight games to fall to 6-6. It was a pretty simple formula from there for Caldwell and Co. The Colts needed to win their last four games to have any shot at the playoffs.

Indianapolis beat Oakland, Jacksonville and Tennessee (twice) in their final four games to get to 10-6 and earn a Wild Card berth in the AFC playoffs. 

Fast forward seven seasons, and Caldwell finds himself in the same boat in Detroit.

After dropping back-to-back games to Minnesota on Thanksgiving and Baltimore Sunday, Detroit has fallen to 6-6 on the season.
Again, Caldwell more than likely will need to see his team win out to have a chance at the Wild Card, this time in the NFC.

“We’re in the same situation,” he said after Sunday’s 44-20 loss in Baltimore. “It just matters how you come out of it. That’s the key. How we play this next game. The only thing we’re focused in on is the next one and see if we can string together good football, which we haven’t been able to do.”

The Lions will need to put together their longest win streak of the season if they’re going to get to 10 wins and have a shot at the playoffs. The longest winning streak the Lions have had this season was the three game one against Green Bay, Cleveland and Chicago before this two-game losing streak.

The formula is simple for Detroit the rest of the way. They need to win out or they’re likely sitting at home and watching the playoffs in January.

SECOND DOWN: STAFFORD'S INJURY

The Lions got a scare in the fourth quarter when quarterback Matthew Stafford left the game and didn’t return with a right hand injury.

Stafford had his hand stepped on after throwing an interception late in the quarter trying to bring the Lions back from a double-digit deficit. 

Stafford went back to the Lions locker room to receive X-rays, which came back negative, but didn’t return to the game.

“They said it was a pretty nasty bruise, but they look normal,” Caldwell said after the game. “There’s no break in there at this point.”

Stafford had the hand heavily taped during his postgame press conference.

“I couldn’t really feel it too well to tell you the truth,” Stafford said of the injury. “Had some like, burning nerve pain in there, so I didn’t know what it was going to be. But x-rays were negative, so.”

It was only last season Stafford dislocated a finger on his throwing hand late in the season. The Lions were fighting for the division title, but lost all three games to end the regular season with Stafford less than 100 percent.

Hopefully, this injury doesn’t limit him to the point it did last season.

THIRD DOWN: DEFENSIVE EFFORT

For the second straight week, the Lions had less than the allowed 11 defensive players on the field for a critical play in the game.

Trailing 20-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Lions forced Baltimore into a 3rd and 7 at the Lions 33-yard line. Trying to change personnel on the fly, the Lions shuffled players in and out, but when Baltimore snapped the ball, the Lions had just nine defenders on the field.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco found receiver Chris Moore wide open all alone in the middle of the field for a 23-yard gain down to the Lions 10-yard line. Baltimore would score two plays later and take a 27-13 lead.

“Yeah, can’t tell you anything other than the fact that that’s wrong, should never happen, and that’s my fault,” Caldwell said of the mixup on defense. 

He was then asked why a timeout wasn’t called on the play.

“My fault, plain and simple,” he said. “That’s just it. I've got to do a better job.”

A similar thing happened in the loss to Minnesota on Thanksgiving. The Lions gave up a touchdown pass with only 10 defenders on the field.

It’s hard enough to play defense in this league with 11 defenders on the field, let alone nine or 10.

Detroit’s defense also gave up some big plays in the passing game, something they knew they couldn’t do against Flacco and Co.

“I mean, we've just got to execute, we got to do the things that we’re supposed to and we just got to play better football,” Lions safety Glover Quin said.

FOURTH DOWN: GREEN’S DEBUT

The first time rookie running back Tion Green touched the football in an NFL game that counted, he took it 33 yards for the Lions’ second longest run of the season.

Green, who was making his NFL debut Sunday in Baltimore, ended up carrying the ball 11 times for 51 yards and scored the first touchdown of his career, on a 6-yard run in the third quarter.

“He ran pretty well,” Caldwell said of Green after the game. “He had some pretty good runs out there, made some tough runs. His touchdown run was a very good run, and obviously he had a pretty nice gain there coming off the left side. 

“He did some nice things. He got his shoulders square, and I thought he did well. We’ll look at it further, but thought he did well.”

Green was inactive the first 10 games of the year, but took Dwayne Washington’s spot on the 46-man roster Sunday.

The majority of Green’s yards came on that first run, but he still ran hard and looked good doing it. The Lions were without Ameer Abdullah (neck) in this one, but don’t be surprised if Green gets more opportunities moving forward, even when Abdullah returns from injury.

“I thought he did a nice job,” Stafford said of Green. “I’m not sure how many carries or how many yards he had or whatever. I know he had the nice long one, we did a great job blocking on that play I think. I’m not sure he got touched until he was 20, 25 yards down field. But thought he did a nice job, didn’t seem like it was too big for him, he just stepped in there and played.”.