O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: How do the Lions bandage the wound going forward?

Posted Sep 16, 2013

Mike O'Hara looks at the good and the bad from Sunday's 25-21 loss at Arizona

Whatever misery the Lions felt Sunday in the immediate aftermath of their 25-21 loss at Arizona, or any lingering pangs this week as they prepare to play at Washington, are just the first stabs of self-inflicted pain from a game that they absolutely should have won.

Bad losses in football are like bad haircuts and bad meals. You can't hide them from anyone, including yourself, and the bitter taste comes back again. And again.

If the Lions are muddling along around the .500 mark and on the fringe of being in playoff contention in November, they'll think back to Arizona game in Week 2 as a day that put their season in jeopardy.

If it's late December, and they're on the cut line for making the playoffs or vying for the NFC North title, Week 2 will feel like the lottery ticket that blew out the window on the ride across the Ambassador Bridge. What could have been, should have been is gone forever.

No team's season is over after two games – certainly not the Lions with a 1-1 record, and not Washington at 0-2. But any squandered opportunity at any point in the season has the potential to be a mortal wound.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at how the Lions have to bandage the wound and go forward. There is also a look at some good and bad from Sunday, numbers involving the Lions that might be surprising, what Robert Griffin III did in Washington's most recent loss that should worry the Lions, and what the Lions have to consider regarding reports of a possible trade of running back Mikel Leshoure.

There is also a way interested parties can deal with Washington's franchise nickname – I'm not writing the name here, but you know what it is – and the best and worst of the NFL after two weeks.

We start with the Lions going to Washington:

1. 0-forever: The Lions have never won a game in Washington. Never is a long time – longer than the Lions' road losing streak to the Packers that dates to 1991. In this case, the losing streak in Washington began in 1938.

The Lions are like a third-party presidential candidate when they go to Washington. They make some noise, cause some aggravation, but they don't win. They're like H. Ross Perot or Ralph Nader.

Player for player, this year's Washington team isn't any better than the Lions. But history is on Washington's side. It's a heavy burden.

2. RG III: Washington was badly outclassed in Sunday's 38-20 loss at Green Bay. Two TD passes by Griffin in the fourth quarter made the game look closer than it really was.

Aside from having never won in Washington, Griffin's passing stats should concern the Lions. He threw for 320 yards and three TDs with one pick. And he did it as a passer, not dual threat runner-passer. He ran four times and gained a net of one yard.

Griffin is still in the recovery stage from the knee injury sustained in last season's playoff loss. It has turned him into a pocket passer, at least for now, while his wheels heal.

Carson Palmer was average, at best, for Arizona. He never ran, but he was sacked only once by a Lions pass rush that is supposed to be better than a year ago.

That should scare the Lions.

3. Running game: The Lions weren't good enough on both sides Sunday. Coach Jim Schwartz said he wasn't satisfied with the run defense. After Adrian Peterson opened his day with a 78-yard TD run for the Vikings in the opener, the defense tightened up and held him to 15 yards on his last 17 carries.

The run defense was not consistently good against the Cardinals, who gained 87 yards on 25 carries. The numbers do not indicate how the Cardinals had key gains when they needed them.

The Lions gained 49 yards on 20 carries, a shade under 2.5 yards per attempt. That's not good enough to close out a game.

Inconsistency is a bad sign. The Lions ran well and stopped the run in the opener but did neither well the next week.

4. Joique Bell: He has been a solid producer for the Lions and an effective receiver whose average gain per catch has been among the league's best. He dropped two passes Sunday, which raises the question of whether he might have felt the pressure of being the lead back after Reggie Bush went out with a knee injury.

Sometimes there is comfort in being a utility player. Bell's role is stronger than that, but being the lead back for even a half raises expectations.

5. Three things to like most about the Lions Sunday: Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson; Stafford's arm was live all game; Sam Martin's punting and kickoffs; Glover Quin's play at safety. He's the best for the Lions since Bennie Blades in the 1990s.

Bill BentleyCB Bill Bentley (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

6. Three things not to like most about the Lions Sunday: Two interference penalties on Bill Bentley; the offense sagging without Bush in the second half, and so many dropped passes; giving up a blocked field goal, and David Akers failing on three field goal attempts.

7. Roster youth: Nine first-year players were on the 46-player active roster Sunday. Six were 2013 draft picks – Ziggy Ansah, Darius Slay, Larry Warford, Devin Taylor, Martin and Theo Riddick. Two were undrafted rookies this year – Joseph Fauria and LaAdrian Waddle. And one was Patrick Edwards, who was on the practice squad last year and played in his first two NFL games this year.

8. Roster survivors: Three players remain from the roster inherited in 2009 when Schwartz was hired as coach and Martin Mayhew was in his first full season as GM. The three holdovers are center Dominic Raiola, Johnson and long snapper Don Muhlbach.

9. Washington nickname: On one level, the media can have some impact, however small, on the issue of whether the Washington franchise's use of "Redskins" as its nickname is racist at worst or insensitive at least.

Every media organization that expresses its opinion that Washington should stop using the nickname should simply stop using it in its coverage. In every reference, call the team "Washington."

And it wouldn't be incorrect. "Washington" is the name.

10. Leshoure trade talk: ESPN reported over the weekend that Leshoure would like to be traded. It makes sense from his standpoint. He hasn't been active for the first three games. He's stuck behind Bush, Bell and Riddick. After being the primary starter last year, he should want to play.

But the Lions need protection from injury. If Bush or Bell were to miss a game, or games, the Lions would be strapped for depth at the position without Leshoure.

There should be no consideration of a trade until there is certainty that Montell Owens will return from the short-term injured list after the sixth game.

Unless he's back, Leshoure has more value to the Lions than the low-round draft pick he would command in a trade.

11. The NFL's best after Week 2:

1. Broncos (2-0): Big wins over Ravens, Giants.
2. Seahawks (2-0): Whipping 49ers Sunday was the most impressive win of the season for any team.
3. Saints (2-0): Sean Payton's return proves his value as head coach.
4. Chiefs (2-0): As good as advertised under Andy Reid.
5. Texans (2-0): Outscored opponents 61-52 to get to 2-0.
6. Dolphins (2-0): Defense is one of NFL's top 5.
7. 49ers (1-1): Better than they showed vs. Seahawks.
8. Packers (1-1): Whipping Washington proved they're better than they showed vs. 49ers.
9. Bears (2-0): Late TD pass beat Vikings, 31-30.
10. Falcons (1-1): Expect them to get on a roll.

The NFL's worst after Week 2

5. Giants (0-2): Eli Manning is a turnover cyclotron.
4. Washington (0-2): Outscored 50-7 in first half by Eagles and Packers combined.
3. Panthers (0-2): Loss to Buffalo was a stinker.
2. Browns (0-2): New front office and coach, same results.
1. Jaguars (0-2): 11 points in 2 games. Denard Robinson has 2 carries for a yard.