MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: "The Lions did not play well enough to beat a subpar Steelers team"

Posted Nov 17, 2013

Columnist Mike O'Hara offers his take on the Lions' 37-27 loss at Pittsburgh to drop to 6-4 on the season

CJ MosleyLions managed just one sack and one QB hit on Ben Roethlisberger. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

PITTSBURGH – Jim Schwartz is the man on the hot seat because of a controversial coaching decision in the Lions' ungainly pratfall in their race to win a division title.

He's in the crosshairs, with the target on his back, and taking most of the shots from the Lions 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on a rainy, gloomy Sunday afternoon.

For the record, I thought the call by Schwartz for a fake instead of a short field goal attempt that would have widened the Lions' lead to 30-23 early in the fourth quarter was overly aggressive and wrong. Taking the points would have been the right call. A seven-point lead would make it probable that the game would go to overtime – at worst.

But from the snap of the ball until holder Sam Martin was hit short of a first down and fumbled the ball away, the play lasted seven seconds.

That was seven seconds out of 60 minutes. And for most of those other 59 minutes and 53 seconds, the Lions did not play well enough to beat a subpar Steelers team. They certainly did not perform like one would expect of a team that began the day in first place in the NFC North with a one-game lead over the Bears and Packers.

Criticism of the fake field goal call is fair. It goes with being a head coach.

But bad football, with so much at stake, is another matter that should not be overshadowed by one play call.

The Lions did not play or act like a playoff team Sunday.

"We didn't," said veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis. "We missed opportunities. Playoff teams capitalize on those opportunities. We know we didn't play enough good football to win it."

It was an aggressive call by Schwartz, and he defended it aggressively after the game, when asked if he had any regrets.

"I don't regret anything that happens in any game," Schwartz said. "We had a great chance to score a touchdown, and not just a field goal.

"It was my call."

After Martin was stopped, the Steelers took over at their three-yard line with 12:49 left and promptly marched 93 yards to the go-ahead touchdown. The truth is, they looked like a playoff team, not one that was desperate to improve its record to 4-6.

Every key play went in the Steelers' favor the rest of the game. It wasn't much different the rest of the game, except for a period in the second quarter when the Lions scored all three of their touchdowns and 24 of their 27 points.

The call by Schwartz for the fake field goal should not make anyone overlook the Lions' defense collapsing early in the game, when it gave up two TD passes to Antonio Brown, and disintegrating in the fourth quarter, when it allowed two more TD passes in the last 4:46.

The call also had nothing to do with Calvin Johnson catching six passes for 179 yards in the first half – and going the entire final 30 minutes without a catch. The best football player in the land did not gain a yard. Figure that.

There is plenty of blame to go around when a team loses a big game, and Sunday's game was big for the Lions. They had a chance to keep a strong grip on the North.

The loss gave them the same 6-4 record as the Bears -- overtime winners over the Ravens -- and a one-game lead on the injury-depleted Packers.

Most disappointing of all was how the Lions played so poorly for such long stretches against the Steelers.

They came out flat, finished flat – and got flattened. And sorry, there's no intention here to come up with a funny line.

The Lions had their share of problems on both sides of the ball. Reggie Bush was off his game from the start and never got in a rhythm as a receiver or runner.

Matthew Stafford wound up with 362 yards passing, but only 35 of those came in the second half. And he did not complete a pass on his last 12 drop-backs. They resulted in 10 incompletions, a scramble, a sack, an interception and some drops.

For a period in the second and third quarters, the Lions' defense beat up the Steelers' offensive line. But ultimately, it couldn't rattle Roethlisberger. One of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league, Roethlisberger was sacked once and hit only one other time.

The Lions head home for their next two games – Sunday against the Bucs, who've won two straight, and a Thanksgiving Day game against the Packers, who might have Aaron Rodgers back from a broken collarbone.

It's time for the Lions to do some serious self-analysis, and not let a royal opportunity to win the North slip away.

"We had some embarrassing plays that shouldn't have happened," Mathis said. "Time's not running out, but it's running thin.

"It's not time for panic, but it's time for urgency.”