O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Time is running out for Lions

Posted Dec 4, 2017

This week’s Monday Countdown is a look at how Glover Quin is right – that time is running out, and there is no more margin for error for the Lions.

From the fallout of losing come echoes of frustration and anguish, and there was a lot of all that in Glover Quin’s voice as the Detroit Lions’ Pro Bowl safety spoke with quiet passion in the locker room after the Detroit Lions laid another giant egg in Sunday’s 44-20 road loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Quin’s tone and words were measured, as one would expect from a player who is the ultimate professional in every phase on and off the field.

It has been a debilitating week and a half for the Lions in a playoff race that has turned into a playoff fantasy.

First was the loss at home to the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving Day in a game that could have put the Lions within a game of the NFC North title but instead has left them out of realistic reach.

And then there was Sunday’s debacle – a word I’ve used often in describing that game because debacle fits like a cashmere mitten on an oiled fist.

As Quin talked to the media at his locker, it was suggested that these last two losses had hit harder than most because of their impact on what was at stake.

“You kind of get tired of not playing well,” Quin said. “Of not winning games.”

What about the slow starts – this latest time a 20-0 deficit going into the second half against a Ravens team that showed up like it intended to win a brawl – and other issues that have developed?

“We’ve got to figure it out,” Quin said. “Time is running out.”

This week’s Monday Countdown is a look at how Quin is right – that time is running out, and there is no more margin for error for the Lions if they are to make the playoffs as a wild card.

There’s a look at their biggest problem – the running game – and how head coach Jim Caldwell is accurate in saying how the 2010 Indianapolis Colts had a 6-6 record like the Lions and rallied to make the playoffs. There’s also four things to like and four not to like from Sunday’s game and a final word. We start with the run game:

1. Sad stat: Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers leads the NFL in rushing with 989 yards going into tonight’s game against the Bengals. Next on the individual rushing list is Todd Gurley of the Rams, with 939. That includes 74 yards gained in the Rams’ win over the Cardinals Sunday.

What do Bell and Gurley have to do with the Lions running game? Nothing, really. Except...

2. Team effort: As a team, the Lions have 939 yards rushing – 50 fewer than Bell, and exactly as many as Gurley. Ten Lions have contributed to the team rushing total is some way – from Ameer Abdullah’s team-high 505, to 10 yards by punter Kasey Redfurn, who sustained a season-ending knee injury on that one run on opening day, to nine yards on two attempts by rookie Jamal Agnew.

3. First downs: The Lions haven’t been getting many on the ground. They had three rushing first downs against the Ravens Sunday. And that represents progress. They had one – ONE!!!! – rushing first down against the Vikings.

That’s four rushing first downs in two games compared to 19 for the Vikings (11) and Ravens (8) combined.

4. Caldwell rally history: Caldwell was asked Sunday about the late playoff run the Colts made in 2010, his next-to-last season as head coach. The Colts were 6-6 and won their last four to make the AFC playoffs as a wild card.

“I think we’re the exact same record, exact same situation,” Caldwell said. “It just matters how you come out of it.”

In the four-game win streak, the Colts relied as much on their running game as they did quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts had rushing totals of 87, 155, 191 and 101 yards for an average of 134 yards per game.

5. Lions rally possibility: Given their remaining schedule, it’s not impossible that the Lions will win their last four games to finish 10-6. Whether they can make the playoffs as a wild card at 10-6 is another matter, given the tiebreakers of other teams in the hunt.

The rest of the schedule is as follows: at Tampa Bay (4-8), home vs. Chicago (3-9), at Cincinnati (5-6 with a two-game win streak going into tonight’s home game vs. the Steelers) and home vs. Green Bay (6-6).

Winning all four is not an impossible chore, given the quality of the opponents.

To do that, the Lions have to play better. One man’s opinion: Put the ball in Matthew Stafford’s hands even more, assuming he’s healthy enough to play.

6. Four things not to like Sunday:

1. The start: Down 20-0, and playing with no energy was disappointing – again.

2. Nine men on defense: It was a situation that was easily correctable on a key third-down in the fourth quarter. Call time out. Of course, it shouldn’t happen in the first place.

3. Prater’s missed kicks: A field goal and an extra point both were wide left on a rare bad day for a clutch kicker.

4. Stafford injury: There were other players who got hurt, but the quarterback is key – especially one who can do what Stafford does. He’s been hit hard often this season.

7. Four things to like Sunday:

1. Rookie Tion Green: He followed a wave of blockers on a 33-yard gain on his first carry as a pro. He also had a TD run. He looked like he belonged.

2. Stafford streak: He had 20 straight completions to cut the 20-point deficit to 20-13. His streak ended on the play when his right hand was injured after throwing an interception.

3. Receivers: Stafford threw it, and they caught it – receivers, tight ends and Theo Riddick out of the backfield. The tight ends had seven catches on seven targets for 71 yards.

4. Nick of time: Linebacker Nick Bellore lined up at fullback and caught a TD pass.

8. Last word – blame game: Caldwell played the blame game – blaming himself for the loss. He said “my fault” or a version of it more than a half dozen times in answering questions about the poor performance.

“We’re the ones on the field,” Quin said. “We’ve got to be ready to go.”