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O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: How much did drops hurt Lions?

Posted Jan 7, 2017

Mike O’Hara covers all the burning questions following the Lions’ 26-6 loss to the Seahawks.

SEATTLE – Burning Questions: Dropped passes, a questionable play call on fourth and one, defensive breakdowns, penalties and a blown call by the officials as the Detroit Lions ended their season with a 26-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card playoff Saturday night:

Question: What is the bottom line on Saturday night’s game?

Answer: It was a reflection of how the Lions ended the regular season with three straight losses to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers. They are three of the best teams in the NFC, and the Lions weren’t good enough.

They weren’t good enough to beat the Seahawks, either. As a result, their season is over, and the offseason of questions and reconstructing the roster begins.

The Seahawks had an answer for everything the Lions tried. They stymied the offense when the Lions were hurting themselves with dropped passes and penalties. When the Lions put the clamps on the passing game with a good rush, the Seahawks ran through them.

The Lions were competitive in streaks, but overall they didn’t measure up to a Seattle team that is playoff tested.

Q. Run game: Any surprise in how Seattle dominated the running game?

A. Not really. If there was any surprise it was that the Seahawks’ running game looked as powerful as it used to. The Seahawks averaged 99.4 yards rushing per game in the regular season, and Thomas Rawls had 107 in the first half alone.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson also shredded the Lions’ secondary. That wasn’t a surprise, either.

The Lions had gotten a little spark from Zach Zenner in the last two games, but the run game flamed out against the Seahawks. Zenner had 17 yards on his second carry of the game but had only 17 more on his other 10 carries.

For the offense overall, it was a case of not being able to run the ball, and a passing game that was out of rhythm and handicapped by another slew of old problems.

Q. Grading: What does losing in the playoffs say about the 2016 season as a whole?

A. The Lions got what they deserved, and what they worked for. They made the playoffs as a Wild Card with a 9-7 record. Nobody handed them a playoff berth as a participation trophy. They earned it.

However, the playoffs expose teams and their weaknesses, and that was the case Saturday night. The Seahawks got what they deserved in beating the Lions to advance in the playoffs. There was no question that the Seahawks were the better team.

Q. Drop zone: Dropped passes on third down derailed the Lions’ first two possessions of the game. Not a good way to start, and what did it mean?

A. The Seahawks didn’t take advantage of it. The Lions punted, and the Seahawks had to punt back both times.

However, the drops – first by Golden Tate, then by Eric Ebron – kept the Lions from sustaining possessions and forced them to give the ball back to the Seahawks. There was another drop later in the half by Ebron, and one by Marvin Jones Jr. in the third quarter.

Dropped passes by the Lions are magnified because of their anemic running game. They cannot afford to give up yards. A drop here and there is one thing, but to have four clear-cut drops in the first 40 minutes of the game was unacceptable.

Q. Fourth and go, Lions: On the first play of the second quarter the Lions had fourth and one and went for it. Right call by head coach Jim Caldwell?

A. No problem going for it. It’s what I would have done. The ball was at Seattle’s 38, and the Lions had been moving the ball.

Q. Play call, fail call: However, the Lions did not gain the first down. The play was a roll out to the right, and Matthew Stafford’s pass to tight end Matthew Mulligan was smothered for a two-yard loss, giving the ball to Seattle at the 40. Right play call?

A. One-word answer: No. No need to explain further about not thinking that a gimmick play to a tight end with one catch this year was the right call.

Q. Seahawks surge: After stopping the Lions they drove to their first touchdown, and converted twice on fourth down. How much momentum did they get from stopping the Lions on the fourth and one?

A. It doesn’t matter how they did it – good play call or bad play call, they did it. The bottom line was that the Lions had a chance to sustain the possession and didn’t, and they tried a gadget play on fourth and one that failed miserably.

On their TD drive to a 7-0 lead, the Seahawks kept the ball on the ground for almost the entire 14-play possession. They converted once on fourth and one on a run by Rawls, and got the touchdown on a fourth and two on Wilson’s pass to Paul Richardson.

Q. Flagged: Lions safety Tavon Wilson and Richardson were contesting for the ball in the end zone, and the official threw a flag on Wilson for pass interference. Should Richardson have been called for offensive pass interference?

A. Yes. According to a halftime interview on NBC, Caldwell said that the officials came to him at halftime and apologized for missing what should have been a face-mask penalty on Richardson. That would have nullified the touchdown catch.

The Lions never led in the game, and it’s hard to say what impact the interference call would have made.

Q. Anger mismanagement: Anquan Boldin and Haloti Ngata both had penalties for unnecessary roughness after the play. Boldin got one in the second quarter and another in the fourth. Ngata got one in the third quarter.

Any excuse for either player to lose his cool?

A. None. Players have to control themselves. They cannot vent their frustration at the expense of the team. There’s no excuse for it.

The Seahawks were doing a good job of beating the Lions. There was no reason for the Lions to help them.