MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: The Lions didn't feel like a first-place team leaving Green Bay

Posted Oct 6, 2013

Search anywhere in the remains of what loomed as a hopeful opportunity, and the truth is that the Lions were not good enough Sunday.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – It doesn’t matter right now if Lambeau Field freezes over on the Fourth of July before the Lions beat the Green Bay Packers on the road.

Losing streaks, home-Tundra advantage, ghosts, myths, heartbreak and anything else that combined to cause the Lions to lose 22 straight road games to the Packers before the two teams met at Lambeau Field are worthless rhetoric.

Loss No. 23 – a solid, convincing 22-9 defeat on Sunday afternoon – and how it was administered is what counts for the Lions.

Search anywhere in the remains of what loomed as a hopeful opportunity and crumbled steadily throughout the afternoon, and the truth is that the Lions were not good enough Sunday.

The offense could not make up for the loss of Calvin Johnson, their superstar wide receiver who sat out the game because of an injured left knee.

With Megatron on the sideline, Green Bay’s defense rendered the Lions’ offense impotent. Wide receivers couldn’t beat man-to-man coverage. The running lanes that Reggie Bush sped through previously suddenly were clogged by Packers defenders who were not occupied with keeping Megatron from splitting their seams.

The offensive line, which gave up three sacks in the first four games, couldn’t hold out the Packers’ rush. Stafford, forced to hold the ball a beat or two or three longer to find an open receiver, was taken down five times.

For the most part, the defense held tough. It surrendered one touchdown – an 83-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones in the third quarter on a broken assignment. But it also committed costly penalties in the first half that extended possessions and let the Packers cash in with field goals. But mostly, the Lions looked like a team that could not cope without Johnson’s presence as a threat to break open the Packers’ defense on any play.

No one was offering Johnson’s absence as an excuse. But one offensive player offered a reasonable explanation for what Johnson means.

"There’s no one like him," the player said. "There’s nobody like him on the planet."

Whoever plays, and regardless of who doesn’t, the Lions have corrections to make before next Sunday’s game against the resurgent Browns in Cleveland . The Browns were picked to be cellar-dwellers in the AFC North, but they’re 3-2 with a three-game winning streak, despite injuries that have ravaged them at quarterback.

The Lions aren’t playing for style points or anything other than making a playoff run.

It didn’t feel like it as they departed Lambeau Sunday, but they’re still in first place in the NFC North with a 3-2 record. Chicago, a loser at home to New Orleans, is 3-2 but lost to the Lions a week ago, giving the Lions the tiebreaker advantage. Green Bay improved to 2-2.

The Lions did not feel like a first-place team after Sunday’s game, which is understandable. There was no reason to feel good about anything.

"We play week-to-week," said guard Rob Sims. "Every win feels good, and every loss hurts. I’m not walking out of here feeling like we knocked one out of the park."

What did the Packers do up front to shackle the Lions’ offense?

"We were ready for everything they did," Sims said. "We just got big doses of it."

The view wasn’t any better one spot to Sims’ right for center Dominic Raiola.

"They beat us on offense up front," Raiola said. "We need to go back to work, like we do every week. It means getting on track and staying on track.

"We didn’t fight for our ground. We took one on the chin. We did it to ourselves. We put ourselves in a hole. Our defense played its butts off. We didn’t give them anything."

The offense missed a chance to take the lead at the end of the first half, when it had the ball at Green Bay’s 25-yard line but had to settle for a field goal that cut the deficit to 6-3.

With the ball at the 25, Kris Durham couldn’t handle a pass from Matthew Stafford at the five-yard line. On the next play, Stafford scrambled for a first down, but it was called back on a holding penalty against left tackle Riley Reiff, who had a tough game.

David Akers ended up kicking a 53-yard field goal.

Coach Jim Schwartz wasn’t looking at the finer points of the loss – or making allowances for not having Johnson.

"We didn’t play well enough in the second half to hold the lead, anyway," Schwartz said. "We’re not going to make any excuses for who plays and who didn’t. It’s a long season. You’ve got to be able to persevere through a lot of ups and downs.

"We’ll bounce back from it."