Wednesday Breakfast with Tim and Mike: Was there any lesson learned from the Patriots win on Monday

Posted Dec 12, 2012

"Any team trying to become a consistent winner could use the Patriots as a model. Monday night’s game was typical of how they approach every game and every season."

The Patriots and Texans played Monday night in a game matching two of the AFC’s powers. It was no game. The Patriots dominated all the way to win, 42-14. If the Lions were watching, was there any lesson for them?

Mike: Yes, but not just for the Lions. Any team trying to become a consistent winner could use the Patriots as a model. Monday night’s game was typical of how they approach every game and every season. They’re relentless. Nothing is ever good enough.

They took a 14-0 lead, then built on it. It eventually got to 28-0. When the Texans finally scored a touchdown, the Patriots made sure they didn’t start thinking they could get back in the game. They scored two more TDs to stretch the lead to 42-7.

The Patriots never, ever, take their foot off the pedal and coast. That should be a lesson to the Lions. Don’t let teams get back in the game.

Tim: It goes to show what playing mistake-free football can do for you, too. The Patriots lead the NFL in turnover ratio at plus-24. The next closest team is the Giants at plus-16.

The Patriots turned 14-0 into 28-0 because they didn’t turn the ball over or have drives stalled with drops or penalties.

The Lions were up 14-0 and then 14-3 and it looked like they were on their way to 21-3 when a Matthew Stafford fumble turned into a 43-yard Packers touchdown the other way. An interception on the next possession at the Packers 13-yard line probably took more points off the table. Too many times this season the Lions have derailed themselves.

The Patriots have a total of 10 turnovers this season. Quarterback Tom Brady has four interceptions and 29 touchdowns and hasn’t lost a fumble all year. The point is: the Patriots don’t make mistakes and they capitalize on their opportunities.

What do the Lions have to do to become as consistently good team like the Patriots?

Mike: One thing would be to stop doing things that hurt the team, like the celebration penalty against the Packers Sunday night that led to a field goal, or being offside and getting a roughing penalty on the same play when the Packers threw an incomplete pass on third down. That led to a touchdown.

You can’t take all the fun and emotion out of the game, but it has to be channeled in the right direction. That might be the biggest lesson the Lions should learn from this season. Nothing should be taken for granted.

That includes winning at Arizona on Sunday.

Tim: Stafford is very, very good, but he needs to go from good to great if the Lions are going to be consistently good like the Patriots. The one common dominator over the past decade for the Patriots has been Tom Brady.

Stafford will be entering his fifth season next year with two full 16-game schedules under his belt the previous two years. He needs to ascend into the upper echelon of quarterbacks. He certainly has the arm, the brain and the moxie to do it.

The Lions place too much of the offense’s success in his hands (he’s on pace to break the NFL record for pass attempts) for him to have the 19th most touchdowns in the league and the 21st best quarterback rating. That's certainly not all his fault, but he can be better.

When he had a career year (I'm talking TDs and not yards) the Lions made the playoffs.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see the Lions do Sunday in the desert that they’ve been unable to do over the last five games? Besides win, of course.

Mike: Two things. One is don’t take anything for granted. That should be easy because the Lions have a five-game losing streak. No way should they take any team for granted, but it can happen, so stay focused in practice and carry it to the game.

On game day, get out to a lead and extend it. The Cardinals were embarrassed by last week’s 58-0 loss to Seattle. They’ll want to make amends. So don’t give them any reason to feel good about themselves.

This is a week to show no mercy.

Tim: I’d like to see the defense impose their will on an inferior opponent, much the same way they did for most of the Eagles game back in mid-October. That was the best the defense has looked all season.

The Cardinals are bad (maybe that’s being kind) on offense and it looks like they’ve completely given up on the season after their ninth consecutive loss with the latest being a 58-0 blowout to Seattle last week.

The Cardinals are last in points scored, yards per game and rushing yards. They’re the No. 28 pass offense.

It doesn't matter what the Lions’ injury situation is on defense; they will be the more talented unit. I’d like to see them play like it and dominate a game. Get some turnovers. Maybe even a pick-6.

How much work do the Lions have to do this offseason to get back to being playoff contenders next season?

Mike: I’m taking a pass on that for now. The issues are obvious: talent and health in the secondary, getting their receivers back – that was supposed to be a strength but didn’t develop that way – and a speed running back, depending on whether Jahvid Best plays again.

I want to see how they finish this season. If they mope and drag to the finish line, that will be telling. There haven’t been any signs of that, and there shouldn’t be.

No matter how disappointed they might be, the biggest thing I want to see before beginning any offseason evaluation – and they’re coming, as they do every year – is the character they show in ending this season.

Tim: I think the good thing for the Lions is that the core is in place. Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Stephen Tulloch are all signed.

These last three games will go a long way to determining what complimentary parts stay or go.

One of the big issues for the Lions this offseason is finding a few more talented complimentary parts, especially in the secondary.

There is simply too big of a drop off in talent in some areas. The Lions are hopeful some of their young draft picks can fill some of that void, but the Lions do need some new faces and an upgrade in a few spots to better compliment their core group of really good players.