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O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: What led to another slow start for Lions?

Posted Dec 3, 2017

Mike O'Hara answers all of the burning questions following the Detroit Lions' 44-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

BALTIMORE – Burning questions: A 20-point blitz putting the Detroit Lions in a hole they couldn’t climb out of; opportunities missed by the Lions and cashed in by the Ravens on a dominating first, a flicker of a comeback by the Lions falling short and an injury to Matthew Stafford in a 44-20 loss that put the Lions’ playoff hopes further in jeopardy:

Question: Did the Ravens’ margin of victory really indicate how much they dominated the game, and what did the loss do to the Lions’ playoff chances?

Answer: By any test at all – eye test, stats test, performance test – the Ravens were by far the better team.
The Ravens were the better team in the first half when they built a 20-0 lead.

And they were the better team in the second half, when the Lions twice got within seven points – 20-3 and 27-20. When the issue was in doubt, and it was briefly when the score was 27-20, the Ravens simply blew the Lions out of M&T Bank Stadium with a 24-point fourth quarter.

The Ravens were better on offense, better on defense, better on special teams – and they made far fewer mental errors than the Lions – one of them not having enough men on the field on defense on a critical third-down conversion by the Ravens in the fourth quarter.

Q. Playoff race: How does that shape up for the Lions now?

A. It’s not something they should be thinking about. They’re 6-6 with four games left, and they’ve been outplayed badly the last two games in losses to the Vikings at home on Thanksgiving Day and again by the Ravens in Sunday’s debacle.

Q. Stafford's injury: He limped off the field after throwing his only interception of game late in the fourth quarter. However, the injury that kept him out was announced by the team as being to his right hand. How serious is it that Stafford was hurt again?

A. That’s two straight weeks that he’s been injured in the game. It was his ankle against the Vikings, and now his hand against the Ravens. Whatever slim hopes the Lions have of making anything of the season rest with Stafford being able to play.  Without him, it’s less than slim.

Q. Slow start: The Lions faced a 20-0 deficit going into the second half. What’s the explanation for that problem continuing? 

A. I don’t know. That’s the truth. But the people who are supposed to know and be able to fix it don’t seem to know, either. That’s the harsh reality.

Q. Bad half, all bad: How would you describe the first half that ended with the Ravens making a field goal for a 20-0 lead?

A. Just that – a bad half, that was all bad for the Lions. Outside of a couple punts by Sam Martin, a long run by Tion Green and a long reception by Kenny Golladay, there was nothing encouraging about the Lions’ performance.

Offense, defense and special teams all contributed to the debacle.

Q. Lions’ chances: Did the Lions have any that could have kept them in the game?

A. Yes, and they failed to take advantage of any of them. It’s ridiculous to say that any one play was the key play or a turning point in the first 30 minutes. But every small play and big play that could have made a difference went in favor of the Ravens.

They all added up, big plays and small, in this order:

Q. Ravens, pinned deep: The Lions got decent field position late in the first quarter on a punt that was downed at the Ravens’ five-yard line. The Ravens wound up punting from their 21. Was that a good chance for the Lions to change field position and get something going on offense?

A. Yes, and the Lions did that – to a point, and with no points. They started their possession at their 35 and got to the Ravens’ 31 with a third and eight. The possession fizzled when Stafford couldn’t handle a low snap from center.

The Lions kept the ball, but the play lost 10 yards and forced a punt instead of trying a field goal that might have made the score 3-3.

Q. Ravens pinned, FG miss: They had to punt from their 21 again with the score still 3-0. The Lions got in position for Matt Prater to attempt a 43-yard field goal, but he was wide left. What happened?

A. The snap was a little high, which might have messed up the timing on the hold. But it’s still on the kicker to make the field goal.

Q. Ravens TDs, double vision: They scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, and both were on wide-open catches – Patrick Ricard and Benjamin Watson. How did they get so wide open?

A. It looked like the Ravens ran the same play on both touchdowns. If it wasn’t the same, it was close. Joe Flacco threw it deep to Ricard for one TD and short to Watson for the other.

20-0 finale: Justin Tucker’s 46-yard field goal on the last play of the half closed out the first-half whitewash.

The Lions made it close – briefly – in the second half, but overall it was a game that the Ravens thoroughly dominated.