O'HARA: What we learned from Week 13

Posted Dec 5, 2017

Mike O'Hara takes a look at what we learned from Week 13 of the 2017 season.

If there is such a thing as a constant in the National Football League it’s that there is always change.

Golden Tate is experiencing a change with the Detroit Lions, and it isn’t change for the better.

Tate expressed his surprise and disappointment over the team’s change in character after Sunday’s 44-20 road loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions played their best ball in the second half of the season in Tate’s first three years as a Lion. That has not been the case this year. The Lions are 2-2 in the second half, and they’ve had resounding losses in the last two games – 30-23 to the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day, and Sunday’s loss to the Ravens.

What we’ve learned – and learned the hard way – is that nothing can be taken for granted. History does not always repeat itself.

Among other things we learned from Sunday’s game and its aftermath, is that head coach Jim Caldwell’s position never changes when it comes to personal accountability, seconds count in giving the opponent second chances, roster shuffling can have unexpected results – and so can young running backs and quarterbacks. And bad news travels fast, even when it’s about an old stadium like the Pontiac Silverdome – and there are still fond memories of the Lions’ former home stadium.

Tate’s view: Golden Tate has been as good as his first name as a Lion – and so were the team’s results in the second half of his first three seasons in Detroit. The Lions closed strong.

In 2014 the Lions were 5-3 in the second half, with a four-game winning streak, to make the playoffs as a wild card at 11-5. In 2015 they almost reversed a 1-7 start by going 6-2 in the second half for a respectable 7-9 record. And last year they started the second half with five straight wins in a 9-7 finish and another wild card spot.

The Lions are 2-2 in the second half this year, but their level of play has been short of playoff caliber.

“This is something I haven’t felt for this team since I’ve been here,” Tate said after Sunday’s game. “Over the years I’ve been here, we’ve done well late in the season.

“We had been playing with a lot of confidence and finding ways to get wins, and just don’t have that feeling this year. And it’s clearly not happening for us right now.

“We got to just keep working, keep grinding, but it sucks.”

Among other things we learned:

Caldwell’s accountability: In the blame game, he put it on himself at his Monday press conference for the defense getting caught with nine men on the field on a crucial fourth-quarter completion by the Ravens.

“Completely my fault,” Caldwell said. “Not acceptable. Horrendous actually.”

In other words, no change from Sunday’s postgame comments.

Seconds count: The Ravens had a 17-0 lead when the Lions got possession at their 13 on a punt with 1:02 left in the half after the Ravens failed on their possession to get in position to try a field goal.

After three plays failed to gain a first down, a fair catch of a 33-yard punt gave the Ravens the ball at the Lions’ 45 with 17 seconds left. A completed pass and an incompletion left the Ravens with enough time for Justin Tucker to make a 46-yard field goal as time expired in the half. That made it 20-0. Ultimately the three points didn’t make a difference in the outcome, but it was a case of the Ravens maximizing an opportunity.

RB Green zone: The wait to see what rookie running back Tion Green could contribute was worth it.

Green has been pretty much forgotten on the Lions’ depth chart since he made the 53-player roster with a big game against Buffalo in the final preseason game. He raised his stock in his first regular-season game with a 33-yard run, a six-yard TD run and 51 total yards rushing on 11 carries.

QB hit zone: It’s not easy for young quarterbacks at any point, and Jake Rudock was victimized twice on the same play when he took over after Matthew Stafford departed in the fourth quarter with an injured right hand. It was Rudock’s first regular-season game in two seasons as a Lion.

Rudock was hit hard just as he attempted a short pass to Golden Tate. Ravens safety Eric Weddle stepped in front of the pass and had a clear path to the end zone on a 45-yard dash to the end zone to close out the scoring.

Silverdome survives Silver Boom: Attempts to implode the Silverdome failed, and that sparked numerous jokes – many at the expense of the Lions, who never managed the stadium and last played there in 2001.

The Silverdome hosted a lot of events that produced many memories. Here are three related strictly to the Lions:

1. Lions 38, Cowboys 6: The stadium rocked as loud as it ever did when the Lions beat the Cowboys in the divisional playoff round of the 1991 season. That put the Lions in the NFC Championship, where they lost to Washington.

2. Barry Sanders, 2,053: In the last game of the 1997 season, Sanders rushed for 188 yards and scored the winning touchdown in a 13-10 win over the Jets. That put Sanders over the 2,000-yard rushing mark and clinched a wild card playoff berth for the Lions.

3. Hot Dog Throw: A hot dog throw from the press box contested by two members of the media was a ritual after the final home game of every season. It would be immodest to report that I won it every year. But I did, all modesty aside.