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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 16

Robert Prince has been a respected member of the Detroit Lions' coaching staff since he joined the team as wide receivers coach in 2014.

His value to the franchise is documented by the stats compiled by players he has coached – Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and others.

What we learned from the Lions' 47-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs is that the respect for Prince doesn't come only for the work he does with his players in the meeting room, on the practice field and on gameday.

It's also his perspective, which was apparent in the way Prince handled the postgame press conference in his role as the leader of the coaching staff. He was selected for that role when interim head coach Darrell Bevell and four assistants were prohibited from participating under the COVID-19 protocols.

Prince was the ultimate professional after a performance by the Lions that was anything but professional.

Among the other things we learned includes the following: There is no such thing as "fair" in the NFL, and it doesn't apply only to the Lions; a bad performance spurs questions about where it ranks on the all-time list; and the Lions are ending the season the way they began it.

We start with Robert Prince.

There is no way to sugarcoat what happened at Ford Field Saturday, and that is not the intent here. That performance – or lack of it, more accurately – is on the resume of every member of the organization.

It was not good.

Prince had to lead the postgame press conference as the stand-in for Bevell, and he was forthright in his comments.

What contributed to the poor performance?

"The issue was, on offense we couldn't stay on the field, and on defense we couldn't get off the field," he said.

On the impact of the missing coaches, including Bevell, defensive coordinator Cory Undlin and others.

"Basically, it's that it's the players' game," Prince said. "Bev is not throwing one pass, and Cory is not making one tackle or covering anybody. It's our opportunity to try to put guys in position and for them to make the plays come to life. And obviously, we came up extremely short today."

Was it a hopeless situation?

"I wouldn't say hopeless," Prince said. "That's a very good team, obviously, that we're playing. But anytime you take the field, you have an opportunity, and we just didn't get it done today."

You couldn't ask for more from a stand-in coach, and you could have gotten a lot less.

"Fair:" It doesn't exist, and it didn't apply only to the Lions in a season affected by the pandemic. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell set the tone – and the boundaries – early on when he told teams to be ready for the draft, as scheduled in late April.

The draft was done virtually, and it was a successful production.

It's been the same during the season. The Lions were forced to play the Bucs as scheduled on Saturday, rather than moving it to Sunday when the coaches would have been available under the protocols.

The Lions played and lost big.

The Browns played Sunday without four receivers and other players and lost to the Jets. The loss ultimately could make the Browns miss the playoffs. And previously, the Broncos were forced to play without all of the quarterbacks on their active roster.

What's fair or unfair for one is fair and unfair for all. And that's fair.

Bad company: There are separate categories for bad. The loss to the Packers in the 1993 playoffs was bad because of how it happened – a defensive breakdown that left Sterling Sharpe uncovered to catch the winning pass in the last minute.

The loss to the Bucs falls into the category of ineptitude.

What we've learned is that it might rank at the top because it's the latest. But there are many others in that category, just as for many teams.

Start to finish: What we've learned throughout this season is that when the opponent gets on a roll, the Lions have trouble stopping it.

It happened in the opener, when the Bears scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to erase a 23-6 lead. In Game 2, the Packers scored 31 straight points after the Lions had started the game with a 14-3 lead.

As we've learned, it was a problem that the Lions never corrected.

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