SCHWARTZ TALKS FUTURE
Jim Schwartz's postgame press conference quickly reverted from talk about how the Lions blew another fourth-quarter lead in another close loss to his future as the team's head coach after finishing the year 7-9.
"I think that we're confident in the way that we work and what we're doing as a team," Schwartz said when asked if he thinks he's earned a sixth season at the helm.
"Obviously we didn't win enough games this year and there's no standard really to judge other than that, and I understand that in this business."
The reality of the situation Schwartz and this team find themselves in is they've lost six of their last seven games after holding the NFC North lead at 6-3. For all intense and purposes, they blew a terrific opportunity that doesn't come around too often.
Schwartz said he hadn't heard anything about his future from the Ford family or upper management and was planning a normal flight back to Detroit and a normal Monday of player physicals and exit interviews.
"I know the way this business it, we all do, but we can't worry about decisions that we don't make," he said. "We have to try our very best week in and week out and if we do, then we can accept any decision that's made.
"I'd certainly like to be back. I think we have unfinished business here. We've come a long way in these years, but we still have some ground that we can make and I'm anxious to have a chance to be able to do that."
It's expected that a decision on Schwartz's future -- either way -- would be determined sooner rather than later.
4TH QUARTER COLLAPSE
It's like the Detroit Lions version of the movie "Groundhog Day."
In each of their last six losses, the Lions have blown a fourth-quarter lead. It's touched all aspects of the team, too – offense, defense and special teams.
In those games, the offense has failed to extend leads and put games away. The defense has been unable to keep the lead and make a play to win the game. Sunday, the special teams gave up a big punt return.
"It's frustrating when we talk about what we need to do," said running back
"Fourth quarter of the season, fourth quarter of games, that's where we have been losing football games and that's where we need that one or two or three plays to be made to help us win that game. Whether it's special teams, offense, defense, whatever, somebody has to make a play."
That play has eluded the Lions late in games the second half of the year.
Is it coaching? Does it come down to players simply not making plays? Is it not having enough players to make those plays?
The frustrating part of all this for the players is they don't seem to have an answer to any of those questions.
"It's something that we did a really good job of in the first half of the season, playing well in the fourth quarter," quarterback
"For whatever reason, myself, defense, special teams or whatever it is ... have had some lapses that haven't helped our chances of winning games. In the NFL you have to play good for all four quarters. We understand that. It's something that we can improve on."
It's something they must improve on.
HOW ANOTHER DECEMBER GAME WAS LOST
It seems like every week for nearly the last two months we've been talking about a sequence of two or three plays that didn't go the Lions way and ended up costing them in a close loss.
That was certainly the case again this week as the Lions managed to turn a 13-7 lead into a 14-13 loss in the fourth quarter.
"I thought that probably the biggest sequence in that game is we got the defensive stop, forced a punt, I thought we had a good punt return and we got called for the block in the back," Schwartz said.
"That flipped field position and then offensively, we went three-and-out and lost yards and then ended up punting from backed up."
That's when one of the most dangerous punt returners in the NFL, Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels, came up with a 50-yard punt return down to the Lions 8-yard line that set up the go-ahead touchdown.
"Their return game is probably the best in the NFL from a punt and kickoff return standpoint," Schwartz said. "That was where it really turned. They were able to make the play, score a touchdown and we just couldn't make that one play on the last drive and then couldn't get them stopped."
Sometimes it's the little things and the details that can separate a win from a loss.
Take the Lions wasting two timeouts on player substitution problems in the third quarter. Two timeouts they could have used at the end of the game when the Vikings were taking knees to end the game.
The first came on an extra point after the Lions only touchdown of the game.
The second came when two receivers ran off the field and the Lions didn't have enough men on the field.
"Well some of those were injury-related, like the field goal," Schwartz said. "We were trying to match and mix a lot of different people. It was miscommunication on the sideline. Corey's (Hilliard) trying his very best out there, but we shouldn't have taken a timeout in that situation. Just take the delay of game."
A delay of game penalty right there would have turned a 20-yard extra point in a 25-yard try. Big deal.
"The other one is we had two receivers come off the field at the same time, Ogletree and (Kris) Durham, or it might have been (Jeremy) Ross, I can't remember what it was," Schwartz said.
"Even though it looked like we were going to get the play off at that point, I didn't want to risk a loss yardage play, a delay of game or something like that. We weren't able to get the touchdown in that situation. I was hoping to avoid a negative play with the timeout right there."
It's the little things that sometimes end up being important, and those little things have cost this football team too often.