Key Questions: The biggest factor in recent late-game collapses and Titus Young's future

Posted Dec 3, 2012

On Monday, head coach Jim Schwartz was in the all-too-familiar position of answering questions about another close defeat that saw the Lions let another late lead slip away.

It was more of the same for head coach Jim Schwartz at his Monday press conference. Taking one more look at the Lions' last-second loss to the Colts before moving on to Sunday's primetime matchup in Green Bay, Schwartz was in the all-too-familiar position of answering questions about another close defeat that saw the Lions let another late lead slip away.

What has been the biggest factor in the recent run on late-game collapses?

According to STATS LLC's research going back to 1983, the Lions are the first team to lose three home games after leading with two minutes remaining. They are the third team since 1940 to lose three straight home games when having the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

"You know, it hasn’t been a matter of can we make the play,” Schwartz said. “It’s been making the play particularly at crunch time over the last month that’s really hurt us.

“We need to respond better at the end of the games. That opportunity was there for us to win.”

The Lions were up by two scores with less than three minutes to play in Sunday’s 35-33 loss to the Colts. The Lions gave up two scoring drives of 85 and 75 yards late in the fourth quarter and failed to get a key first down on their possession between those two drives that would have iced the game.

“The thing we can’t afford is a quick touchdown. We gave up one,” Schwartz said. “We can’t afford a penalty that stops the clock and also gives them 15 yards. Fifteen yards should be exchanged for, you know, 40 seconds off of the clock.

“On offense we had a chance to be able to make a couple plays, you know, a catch here or there that can seal the game and be that dagger at the end of the game. You know, Nick (Harris) had a really good day punting. He saved his worst punt for the end.

“A lot’s been made of our slow starts and things like that. But our inability to put games away at the end, particularly these last three weeks (has cost us). We need to be able to finish better.”

What is the current status of receiver Titus Young, who was inactive for a second consecutive week?

By the sounds of it, Young isn’t expected to be a contributor for this team the rest of the way.

“Titus will not be part of our wide receiver mix,” Schwartz said. “He’s not with the team right now. If I have any further updates, I’ll let you guys know.”

Young returned to practice last week after being sent home two weeks ago for being insubordinate and lining up wrong in a loss to the Packers.

Schwartz said Young would have to earn his way back on the time. By the sounds of it, he didn’t do that, and it’s unlikely he plays for the Lions again this season - and possibly ever again.

“You know, I certainly believe in second chances,” Schwartz said. “There’s no greater story in the NFL or professional sports than redemption and people that overcome situations and things like that. I think we all hold out hope that guys can do that. But you need to make the most of the opportunities you have.

"When you have an issue or you have something that occurs and you do get a second chance and you’re welcomed back, you have to do everything to take advantage of that opportunity. I think in this case that didn’t happen.”

Have the Lions regressed since last year’s 10-6 playoff run?

It’s hard to make a case against regression looking solely at their record this year. The Lions had a lot of expectations heading into the season and entered the year with a lot of the same roster. There's no question that roster has under performed at 4-8.

“Well, I wouldn’t say regressed,” Schwartz said. “We’ve gone off track for sure. But I wouldn’t say regressed. Like I said, we’ve made those plays at times this year. We haven’t done it enough.

“We’ve had some unfortunate situations. We haven’t had Louis Delmas for most of the year. We haven’t had Jahvid (Best) for the whole year. We’ve had some other injury situations; we lose (Nate) Burleson.

“Everybody deals with those same kind of things. That’s why I said you’re really not taking a step back with that. You’re taking a step off track. Even Ryan Broyles, he’s off track (with news of recent torn ACL in right knee) but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a step back. It’s all part of life in the NFL. I think that this team goes hard to work every week. They go out and play hard. We need to make one more play to finish those games and when we do we’ll be victorious.”

Are players playing for jobs these last four weeks?

With the playoffs now out of grasp, players are basically on a four-game audition for coaches and front office personnel. The Lions have nine starters who are unrestricted free agents after the season.

“The best players have that attitude all the time and we’re certainly looking for those kind of guys,” Schwartz said. “There are tremendous opportunities still. There are opportunities for this franchise. There are opportunities for individual players. Most of all there’s opportunity for the team and the guys that do the best for the team are the guys that are going to be rewarded.”

Did the Lions do enough to address their needs in the secondary this offseason?

The secondary gave up six plays of 20 yards Sunday and four plays of 40 yards and couldn't make a stop when it needed it most at the end of the game.

“You know, you can’t anticipate all kinds of different things that happen,” Schwartz said. “Last year, all of our wide receivers were healthy the entire year. This year that hasn’t been the case. Our cornerback position – we drafted a corner that appears to have a very bright future (Bill Bentley in the third round). He got hurt. He would like he was on his way to being a starter or at least a major contributor.

"We’ve had a lot of different situations and there’s no excuse there. Whatever happens, you need to be able to plug it in and go to the next guy. I think there’s been some unforeseen things there.

“Louis Delmas has struggled with that knee since the beginning of training camp.  Obviously the way we went into training camp, that wasn’t something that we thought was going to be an issue, but you have to be able to adjust. At time we’ve done a good job with that, at times, particularly lately, we need to do a better job.”