Lions can't put it together in loss to Vikings
NOV 11, 2012 3:21p ET
The Lions were trending upward, having won two straight and three of their last four, while the Vikings were reeling, losers of two in a row and three of four.
It’s a completely different scenario now.
The Lions’ playoff chances took a serious hit with a 34-24 loss to the Vikings at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis.
Detroit, losing for the second time to Minnesota this season, dropped back below .500 with a 4-5 record. The Vikings moved to 6-4.
The Lions’ offense was lousy early and good late. The defense was good early and lousy late.
That type of combination — the inability to put it all together, with one thing or another always breaking down — is often what plagues mediocre teams. It’s certainly not a good formula to make the playoffs.
The Lions play five of their final seven games at home, but they’re against several of the league’s most formidable teams.
What’s more, capped by Sunday’s performance, the Lions just don’t look like a team that’s ready to make a playoff push this season.
Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson rushed for 171 yards, including a crucial 61-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t get Adrian Peterson stopped,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said during his post-game radio show. “It was very simple how we got beat.”
The Lions reverted to their slow-starting ways, getting completely shut down offensively for more than two quarters. The defense kept them in it for a while. Detroit trailed 16-3 toward the end of the third quarter.
That’s when quarterback Matthew Stafford and Co. finally came to life, scoring three touchdowns in the final 18 minutes.
The Lions suddenly made it look easy, going 81 yards in four plays on their final possession of the third quarter and 80 yards in six plays on their first possession of the fourth quarter.
In the end, it was still too little and much too late.
It all ruined a gutsy performance by receiver Calvin Johnson, who has been hampered by knee and stinger injuries in recent weeks. Johnson caught a career-high 12 passes for 207 yards.
He added a meaningless touchdown on an 11-yard catch with 1:53 remaining. It was only his second score of the season and the first time thrown to him by Stafford.
Stafford ended up completing 28 of 42 passes for 329 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“It took us a while to get our steam going,” Schwartz said. “We had to work to get guys open, but we found a way to start getting that done.”
The problem is that, sooner or later, the Lions’ suspect and depleted defense was going to get exposed. It was inevitable, and it happened during the Vikings’ 18-point fourth-quarter spurt.
Minnesota scored less than three minutes after Detroit cut the lead to 16-10. And less than four minutes after Detroit scored again to make it 24-17, Peterson broke his long run that basically clinched the outcome.
The Vikings finished with 189 yards rushing to the Lions’ 60. Minnesota averaged 5.4 yards per carry, Detroit 3.5.
“We have to run the ball better than that,” Schwartz said. “It doesn’t matter how many times we run it, we have to run it more effectively to be able to set up play-action, to be able to make them respect run.
“We had too many second down and 9’s, second down and 10’s, and even second down and 11’s.”
Nevertheless, it was a seven-point game when the Lions got the ball at their 48-yard line with 9:58 remaining following a defensive stop and a 27-yard punt return.
On the first play, offensive tackle Jeff Backus was called for holding linebacker Chad Greenway, turning it into a first-and-20. The penalty was followed by three incomplete passes for a wasted opportunity.
“That was a huge, huge momentum shift,” Schwartz said. “I thought that was probably the biggest series.”
Earlier this season, it was the special teams hurting the Lions. At times, it’s been the enigmatic offense. And now, quite likely, it’s going to be the defense down the stretch.
When one thing gets fixed, something else falls apart. That just appears to be the storyline for this Detroit Lions’ season.
The injury-riddled defense can’t catch a break. Defensive end Cliff Avril sustained a concussion, which means he could miss a week, if not more. Cornerback Chris Houston also injured his left ankle late in the game, but initial reports indicated it is not too serious.
... Stafford, in his 38th career game, became the third-fastest in NFL history to pass for 70 touchdowns. Dan Marino did it in 29 games and Kurt Warner in 31.
… Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, who passed for 63 yards a week earlier at Seattle, completed 24 of 32 against the Lions for 221 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
… The Lions were 1-for-9 on third-down conversions. They also committed two turnovers, including a fourth-quarter fumble by Johnson, to no giveaways by the Vikings.
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