FOUR DOWNS: Star letdown; coaching assurances; playoff picture and offensive struggles

Posted Dec 16, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at four keys from Detroit's 18-16 loss to Baltimore on Monday night



When the Lions needed them most, when their first-place lead, and possibly their playoff hopes, was on the line Monday night at Ford Field, the Lions needed their star players to step up and guide them to victory.

They needed Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson to rise up and lead the way. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case.

Stafford turned the ball over three times and Johnson had a sudden case of the dropsies in Detroit's 18-16 loss to the Ravens.

Stafford finished the game 18-of-34 passing for 235 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Johnson had six catches for 98 yards, but dropped two wide-open passes that would have extended drives in Baltimore territory.

“I mean, it falls into: they’re human beings," head coach Jim Schwartz said after the game. "As much as we say, ‘Megatron’ and things like that, there’s still a human element to this game and you’re not going to catch every single one; every single pass isn’t going to be perfect.

“We didn’t play perfect in any phase of the game, no team ever does. But we didn’t make enough plays to win and they did.”

Schwartz said Stafford’s decision making and his turnovers have been a factor in not only Monday's loss, but during their recent skid.

“That certainly affected us the last couple games and has also affected us in this game,” he said. “There were a couple scoring opportunities that we weren’t able to take advantage of because of turnovers.”

Stafford has turned the ball over 12 times (10 interceptions, 2 fumbles) in his last five games.



When the Lions were 6-3 over a month ago, everything was looking up for this team and for Schwartz.

Losing four of their last five and falling out of the NFC playoff race can put a damper on things real quick, however.

Schwartz was asked about his future after the game and his job security moving forward.

“The only assurance we need is we have two games to play and we’re one down in our division,” he said when asked if he’s gotten any assurances from general manager Martin Mayhew or the Ford Family about his job status.

“I mean, that’s the only thing we need to worry about, that’s the only thing that we need to concern ourselves with right now. We need to find a way to come back with a win against the Giants, go on the road, beat the Vikings and – like I said – let the dust settle and see where that takes us.”

Jim SchwartzHead coach Jim Schwartz (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

With the way the Lions have collapsed over the last five games, it's a legitimate question.



The formula was simple for the Lions coming into Monday night's game. They win their remaining three games and they win their first division title in 20 years and host a playoff game.

The Lions had two of their final three at home and all three games indoors. It was all set up in their favor.

They dropped the first leg of the journey, however, and now their destiny is out of their hands.

“This was a setback, no question, because like you said we did control our destiny until tonight,” Schwartz said. “Now we’ve got to get some help from somebody.

“Chicago and Green Bay play each other the last game of the season, so one of those teams is going to get a loss. We’ve got two to play. We go and get two wins, we’ll let everybody else sort it out. But we’ve got to be resilient enough to bounce back from it.”

The Lions need to win out and have both Chicago and Green Bay lose at least one more game to still have a chance to win the division.



The Lions entered the game averaging more than 26 points per game and had failed to score at least 20 points only one time this year -- Oct. 6 in Green Bay (22-9).

Detroit picked the most inopportune time to go cold on offense for a second time this this, especially considering the Ravens didn’t score a touchdown in the game.

“We were the No. 2 ranked offense and we didn’t play like it today,” running Reggie Bush said. “We didn’t play like we wanted it today on both sides of the ball.”

Here's the worrisome part about that quote. If the Lions couldn’t play like they wanted it in a home game, on national television, with the playoffs on the line, when can they?

Bush said he didn't fell like the Lions played with enough "urgency."

“It was pretty evident,” he said. “When we needed to make plays we just didn’t have them.”