Key Questions: Biggest factor in close defeat, injuries and the run game

Posted Dec 10, 2012

It seems there has been a different reason each week the Lions have failed to win close games.

Head coach Jim Schwartz said in his Monday press conference that the NFL is a tough business and "nobody feels sorry for anybody" in this league.

Certainly no one around the league has shed a tear over the current five-game losing streak the Lions are on. The same can probably be said for the Cardinals – the Lions' next opponent – who have lost nine straight (the Seahawks certainly didn't feel sorry for them in a 58-0 blowout Sunday).

Schwartz said the only thing the Lions can do now is go back to work to get ready for Week 15 and the Cardinals. The NFL is a "week-to-week business" according to Schwartz.

But before he completely turns the page on Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Packers, he looked back on the loss one more time with reporters on Monday.

What was the biggest factor in another close defeat Sunday?

It seems there has been a different reason each week the Lions have failed to win close games.

Both the defense's inability to get a key stop and the offense's inability to put the game away have contributed.

Sunday was probably more attributed to two key turnovers in the second quarter in Green Bay territory when the Lions had an opportunity to really put their foot on the gas.

"Anytime you have a game that weather conditions are the way they (were), taking care of the football is paramount," Schwartz said. "One of the reasons we had a 14-0 lead is because they turned the ball over early in the game.

"But both times we turned it over we were in the plus side of the field. We were in their territory. Doesn't necessarily mean we would have scored in either of those situations, but if we don't we have a good chance to pin them down with field position and make it a lot harder on them."

Matthew Stafford had the ball slip out of his hand attempting a pass near midfield. He was unable to corral the fumble when he slipped and it was picked up by Packers defensive end Mike Daniels and returned 43 yards for a touchdown.

Stafford also threw an interception later in the second quarter at the Green Bay 13-yard line when he and receiver Kris Durham got their signals crossed on what the route was supposed to be.

"Like I said last night, they were critical plays," Schwartz said of the turnovers. "Had a lot of critical plays in the game and there were plenty of opportunities to change it after that but we didn't make any of those plays."

How did the Lions come out of the game injury-wise?

It was another week, another one-possession loss and another week filled with some injury concerns.

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew was lost to an ankle injury in the first series and did not return. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley injured a shoulder late and also could not finish. Both players were being evaluated Monday.

"(Pettigrew) had an ankle and we'll see the extent of that, what kind of ankle it is and everything else," Schwartz said. "But it wasn't a good sign that he wasn't able to finish because (he's) another guy that's had some injuries and he's played through some stuff. He's always done a good job there."

The Lions are hoping it's not a high-ankle sprain, which are most often week-to-week type injuries and not so much day-to-day.

"Nick Fairley had an injury late, who we tested today," Schwartz said. "We'll see where those take us as well as the other guys we talked about and make the best decision."

If Pettigrew or Fairley is going to be out any extended period of time, the Lions will likely have to make a roster move this week already being shorthanded at both positions.

Did the Lions abandon the run game too early in the second half?

The Lions were up 14-10 at the half and had rushed for 117 yards in the first 30 minutes.

The Packers countered with a lot of run blitzes in the second half and the Lions were held to just 18 rushing yards on eight attempts.

"I think that more went to Green Bay doing a good job stopping it," Schwartz said.

"We had a couple times where we ran on first and second down; left ourselves with a third down (and) we weren't able to get the third down. Anytime they're stopping drives, and we were very efficient on third down in the first half so we were keeping drives alive, but when you're not able to keep drives alive it's hard to consistently run the football."

The Lions weren't able to stack good run on top of good run in the second half like they were in the first.

Schwartz said they were still committed to the run, but he gave credit where credit was due. The Packers shifted their focus to the run game and opened up opportunities on the outside.

So, did the Lions take advantage of the outside part of the field enough in the second half?

The simple answer is no.

"We didn't do as good a job as we needed to in the second half of the game on the outside part of the field," said Schwartz. "They started making a more concerted effort to stopping the run, bring in safety blitzes and nickel blitzes and things like that to try to really clog up our run game. When that happens we need to win outside and all of our wide receivers, tight ends – we use a lot of guys in those roles – we weren't efficient enough making plays on the outside part of the field to make them pay for that strategy."

Receiver Kris Durham, who played in his first game with the Lions, had four catches for 54 yards starting opposite Calvin Johnson, but had just one catch for 13 yards in the second half.

Johnson had seven catches for 81 yards in the second half. He finished with 118 in the game. No other receiver had more than 21 yards receiving.

"Both teams had a hard time on the outside part of the field," Schwartz said. "Packers didn't make a whole lot of plays on the outside of the field either. But particularly in that second half we had four or five opportunities where guys slipped down or we were a little bit off with a throw or miss an opportunity that could have kept drives alive and could have put us in scoring position."

There were a lot of missed opportunities, but what's one missed opportunity people might not have noticed?

Stefan Logan has taken a lot of heat this season for some ball security issues and for some of his decision making when it comes to returning kicks and punts.

Logan had a chance to make a big play Sunday in the third quarter following a Packers touchdown, but let it slip away - literally.

"He just slipped when he made the break," Schwartz said of a 27-yard kickoff return following a Aaron Rodgers touchdown run that had the potential to be big.

"Looked like there was a lane there, might be an understatement there. There was a big opportunity there. There's a lot of opportunities in there. When you turn a ball over, it's a missed opportunity. When you give up a play somewhere, it's a missed opportunity. A third down conversion, you miss a punt, but that was obviously a big play in the game too.

"They had just scored and we got a chance to either get a really long return or even break one. Field conditions were slippery. That had nothing to do with the hole that opened up. We did a good job of blocking and opened up a big hole. We have to find a way to keep our feet there, stay under control and then it would have just been the kicker to beat."