O'Hara's Monday Countdown: How did the Lions lose three straight at home?

Posted Dec 3, 2012

This week's Monday Countdown won't attempt to resurrect the Lions' season, or rewrite the history of the last three weeks. The 4-8 record speaks for itself.

I should have figured that the wheels and just about everything else connected to the Lions' victory bus would come flying off just as soon as Jason Hanson's 31-yard field goal cleared the crossbar to stretch the Lions' lead to 33-21 over the Indianapolis in the fourth quarter Sunday.

Everything was rolling the Lions' way: 12-point lead, 8:41 left, hometown crowd rocking Ford Field, and the Colts sagging with their rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, feeling heat from a rush coming straight up the middle all day.

And, predictably, that's when things started to come apart. Just like the game before against Houston on Thanksgiving Day. And five days before that against Green Bay.

A touchdown pass by Luck as time ran out beat the Lions, 35-33. The Lions never trailed in the game until Donnie Avery crossed the goal line to complete the 14-yard play.

Really, it figured. The way Sunday's outcome developed wasn't much different than what happened the previous two weeks at Ford Field.

Both games ended in losses - 34-31 in overtime to Houston, and 24-20 to Green Bay on a TD with less than two minutes left and a lead-widening field goal in the final seconds.

This week's Monday Countdown won't attempt to resurrect the Lions' season, or rewrite the history of the last three weeks. The 4-8 record speaks for itself.

The focus is on how the Lions failed to take advantage of a favorable point in their schedule, with three straight home games after playing six of the first nine on the road.

They were 4-5 going into those three games. Instead of getting solidly into playoff contention by winning two of the three at home, or sweeping all three, some revealing - and slightly amazing - stats show how they blew all three, and blew apart their season in the process.

There's also a look at Titus Young and Ndamukong Suh, and why they should never be considered in the same manner, and the best and worst of the NFL after Week 13.
We start with the Lions playing giveaway.

1. Leading & losing: In the last two games, the Lions were behind only once, and never by as much as a touchdown, in losing to the Texans and Colts. The Packers had three leads for almost a combined full quarter.

Here's the breakdown of the last three opponents scored when it counted most:
2. Packers: They led for 13:15 of the 60 minutes. When it came to winning time, they drove 82 yards on six plays to the game-winning TD with 1:55 left. A late field goal accounted for the final score, 24-21.

3. Texans: Their only lead came on the game-winning field goal with 12:39 elapsed in overtime. The Lions played 72:39 without being behind – and lost. The game was tied three times, at 14-all, 24-all and 31-all. But the Texans never had the lead until they won the game. If you're going to lead once, that's the best time.

4. Colts: They had the lead for 4:41 of the first quarter. Luck's first TD pass to Avery made it 7-3. The Lions went ahead, 10-7, with 1:48 left in the quarter and were never behind until Indy won the game as time expired.

5. Time behind: The three games lasted 192 minutes, 39 seconds. The Lions were behind for only 17:56. All that time and effort, and nothing to show for it.
6. Defensive stop flops: Offensive play selection gets a lot of attention and criticism, and rightfully so most of the time. On the last possession against the Colts, I don't think three straight runs on the last possession was the right way to go. At least one pass should have been thrown to Calvin Johnson.

But the uproar over whether to run or pass should not obscure how the defense collapsed in the clutch in the last three games.

In order, here's how the defense failed to do its part:

Packers: Starting at their 18-yard line with 4:19 left, they drove 82 yards on six plays to the go-ahead TD.

Elapsed time of the drive: 2:30.

Texans: They got the ball trailing by a TD with 7:38 left and drove 97 yards on 15 plays to score the tying TD.

Elapsed time of the drive: 5:43.

Colts: Two TD drives on possessions that started in the last 4:02 won the game – 85 yards on eight plays, and 75 yards on 11 plays.

Combined elapsed time of the drives: 2:30.
7. Defensive balance sheet: Four possessions combined covered 339 on 40 plays and took only 10:43.

One stop in any of those possessions would have won a game, or two - or all three.

And that has nothing to do with the offense running or passing.
8. Ndamukong Suh: There is nothing remotely similar to the controversies involving Suh and Titus Young.

Young broke the code of being a teammate with his behavior and actions. There's no way he can be trusted at this point. Schwartz said after Sunday's game that he told Young to his face not to come to the stadium, and that he thought not having Young at the stadium was "what was best for the team today."

Suh plays hard and he plays rough. He doesn't miss practice or shirk his workouts. He trains religiously.

Getting a traffic ticket has absolutely no impact on team chemistry, or how a player is regarded by his teammates.  What matters most is whether they hold up their end of the workload, and Suh cannot be faulted for that.
9. Suh on Sunday: That was one monster game by Suh - six tackles, a sack, four tackles for losses, six quarterback hits and a pass breakup.

Andrew Luck has good reason to dislike Suh - for the punishment he gave him, within the rules.
10. Punter patter: After further review, I have to agree with a reader that said too much was made about Nick Harris' 25-yard punt that let the Colts start their game-winning drive at their 25.

Schwartz called it a "terrible" punt, and it was.

But it wasn't as terrible as the defensive plays that were not made in the Colts' last two drives that covered 160 yards on 19 plays.

Whether the Colts got the ball at their 25, or the 15, didn't matter. They were going to find a way to score against a defense that consistently has not found ways to stop game-winning drives in the last three games.
11.   The NFL's best:
1.     Falcons (11-1): Five interceptions off Drew Brees in big win Thursday night.
2.     Texans (11-1): Best in the AFC - for now.
3.     Patriots (9-3): Six-game win streak, playing their best of the year.
4.     Broncos (9-3): Seven-game win streak; I like Pats a little more.
5.     49ers (8-3-1): Might be time to switch back to Alex Smith.
6.     Packers (8-4): Could be losing too many players to make a serious run.
7.     Ravens (9-3): Tough loss to Steelers at home, but still top 3 in AFC.
8.     Giants (7-4): A win over Redskins Monday night gives more breathing room in NFC East.
9.     Colts (8-4): Beating Lions shows how they keep hanging in.
10.   Bears (8-4): Home loss to Seahawks puts them in tie with Packers in NFC North.
11.   Seahawks (7-5): Tough OT win at Chicago, but they're 0-3 in NFC West.
12.   Steelers (7-5): Alive with Charlie Batch, who led upset at Baltimore.
12. The NFL's worst
1.       Eagles (3-9): Close race with Raiders for worst.
2.       Raiders (3-9): Home loss to Browns was fifth straight.
3.       Jaguars (2-10): Chad Henne took a giant step back in loss to Bills.
4.       Chiefs (2-10): Showed character in win over Panthers.
5.       Panthers: (3-9): They don't get much done. Coaching change is coming.