LIONS INSIDER

TWENTYMAN: The Good and Bad from Monday night's loss

Posted Dec 17, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at the good and the bad from Monday's 18-16 loss to Baltimore on Monday Night Football

When Justin Tucker’s 61-yard field goal fell innocently over the crossbar to help give Baltimore an 18-16 victory on Monday Night Football, the Lions fell from first place to third place in the NFC North and no longer control their playoff  fate.

In the time it took that kick to fall through the upright – and it seemed like an eternity – the Lions season quickly turned from promising to disappointing.

The Lions can still make the playoffs. They need to win their reamaining two games against the Giants and Vikings and then hope for both Chicago and Green Bay to lose one of their remaining two games. That isn’t entirely unthinkable, either, given the up-and-down nature of this division all year.

But still, the Lions have squandered both opportunity and talent over the last five weeks after seizing control of the NFC North at 6-3 just over a month ago in Chicago.

Turnovers, off-target throws, dropped passes and penalties again plagued the Lions against Baltimore as they continue to make too many mistakes of their own.

The bad certainly out-weighs the good this week, but that’s been the case for over a month now.

The Lions aren’t playing good football and there’s a lot of blame to divvy up.

THE BAD

COACHING

I’ll get back to the short-yardage play calling.

First off, however, is the use of running back Reggie Bush, who had 42 yards on five carries in the first quarter, but only one carry for four yards in the second.

Bush said after the game he was hurt. He missed last week with a calf injury.

Bush left the field once with a shoe issue, and he did get up slow a few times after taking big hits, but head coach Jim Schwartz said he was available all game.

“I don’t think so,” Schwartz said when asked if Bush was limited at all due to the calf injury. “I thought he was moving pretty good. He was playing tough, he was playing physical and I thought he was making a difference.”

So why go away from him for long stretches in the game?

Bush finished with 86 yards rushing on 17 carries (5.1 average) and caught two passes for 15 yards. He simply wasn’t used enough.

Then there’s the play calling on a few short-yardage situations.

One particular call jumps out right away in the third quarter. The Lions had a first down at the Baltimore 40-yard line and ran consecutive plays to Bush (four yards) and Joique Bell (five yards) to set up a third-and-1 at the Ravens 31. Instead of pounding the football with one of the best short-yardage backs in the NFL in Bell (7-of-9 on the year on third-and-1 runs), the Lions went shotgun and threw the football. Stafford tossed an interception and the drive was stalled.

Detroit faced a third-and-2 in the fourth quarter after an 8-yard run by Bush and again decided to go shotgun and throw the football. Again, Stafford threw an interception over the middle in a crowd.

Offensive play calling aside, the Lions dropped passes, threw interceptions and had untimely penalties. They were undisciplined and Bush said after the game they didn’t play with enough urgency.

"It was pretty evident," he said.

MATTHEW STAFFORD

To his credit, Stafford stood in front of the media after throwing three interceptions Monday night and owned up to his performance.

“I didn’t play my best game by any means,” he said.

Stafford was just 18-of-34 passing for 235 yards with a touchdown and those three interceptions. It wasn’t just the interceptions, either. Stafford missed a number of easy throws, passes that are simple football plays, like a screen pass thrown to the feet of Bell in what looked like could have been a big play.

“He didn’t play his best,” Schwartz said of his quarterback’s performance. “There were a couple times I thought he could make some better throws in there, but that’s probably any quarterback in the league you can say that about.”

This coaching staff doesn’t say it that often about Stafford, at least publically.

It is warranted, however, with 12 turnovers over by Stafford over the last five weeks.

We’ve seen glimpses of how good he can be (final drive against Dallas), but too often we’ve seen a player who doesn’t seem to be taking the next step in his development when he should be.

OFFICIATING

The men in the zebra shirts didn’t have their finest game.

The Lions were the victims of some horrific calls by the officials, especially a no-call on Baltimore’s Lardarius Webb in the end zone when he clearly had a hold of Kris Durham’s arm on a third-down pass.  Even former NFL official Mile Pereira said the officials blew that call.

There was also a questionable pass interference call on Don Carey in the second quarter that helped lead to a Baltimore field goal.

The penalties ended up pretty even across the board with the Lions flagged eight times for 89 yards and the Ravens seven for 70. It was the kinds of penalties and the timing of them that seemed to hurt the Lions, though.

THE GOOD

BEND BUT DON’T BREAK DEFENSE

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t score a touchdown and still won the game.

The Lions defense can’t be blamed for this loss.

Sure, they gave up 305 total yards, had just one sack, and didn’t force a turnover, but they played well enough to win that game giving up just 18 points.

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

The one play that’ll haunt them, however, is the 27-yard completion from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with just over two minutes left in the game on third-and-15. The play set up the game-winning 61-yard field goal. That was one play they needed.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Lions coverage units did a pretty good job on dangerous Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones. The only time Jones broke loose was in a critical point in the game, however, with 36-yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter that help set Baltimore up for it’s final score.

Other than one touchback, Sam Martin had a good day punting the football with a 46.0 average and thee punts dropping inside the 20.

David Akers took over kickoff duties for the first time this year and kicked two of his four attempts out of the end zone. He’s probably wishing he had gotten that last one out of the end zone, however.

Akers also made his one field goal attempt in the game from 40 yards in the third quarter.

RUNNING GAME

Bush (86), Bell (24) and Stafford (9) combined for 119 rushing yards, which was higher than their season average of 112.5 coming in.

The offensive line was making holes and the Lions were gashing the Ravens defense, especially early on. I thought they went away from it too much.

Monday’s game marks the first time this year the Lions have lost a game when rushing for at least 117 yards (6-1).