The Lions are on bye this week and play next on Oct. 29. They’ve won their post-bye game in each of the past five seasons. Video by Ryan Ford/DFP
Free Press columnist Shawn Windsor offers three takeaways from the Detroit Lions’ 20-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Ford Field:
Lions synonymous with torture
The Lions never will run out of ways to torture their fan base.
That 3-1 start feels like forever ago. And that talk of a run through the playoffs? You should’ve known better. We should’ve, too. This team simply is not good enough offensively. Or, lately, defensively.
Yeah, the Steelers scored just 20 points. But that was misleading. A few more accurate passes from Ben Roethlisberger and that number might have jumped to 30 … or more.
As it was, Pittsburgh gave the Lions a chance. Then kept giving them more. At no point could they take advantage. Not in five – FIVE! – trips to the red zone, which led to four field goals and a turnover on downs.
First and goal from the Pittsburgh 4-yard-line?
Second and goal from the 2? And … nothing?
Yes, nothing. That happens when an offensive line can’t push off the ball. And when the running backs are built for screen passes. And when the receiving corps is quick and crafty, but small, which squeezes the end zone from the sides, because it means the fade routes won’t work.
Right now, the Lions don’t have enough playmakers for Matthew Stafford. Or a consistent offensive line. But, then, you knew that. Now you know if for certain.
The pass rush is disappearing
Ben Roethlisberger missed two open receivers in the end zone. He missed open receivers in the middle of the field. So this could’ve been worse. Because he had as much time as he needed to throw.
Rarely did the Lions defensive front bother the Steelers’ quarterback. In fact, the Lions didn’t sack him once, and was fortunate Roethlisberger missed some easy throws.
The defense helped win games early in the season by causing turnovers and getting to the quarterback. The secondary came up with two more turnovers Sunday night. Glover Quin hauled in a spectacular interception to thwart one drive and recovered a fumble to stop another.
Not much. Clearly, the Lions miss Haloti Ngata, the veteran defensive tackle who tore his bicep and whose blunt force in the middle of the line caused trouble. Yet we can’t lay this all at the feet of Ngata. Ziggy Ansah has to play better. He is not the disruptor he was two years ago.
Beyond that? The Lions have to get more inventive in the way they attack the quarterback. Because the four-man rush – and all that depth on the defensive line – isn’t getting it done.
Healthy Stafford is difference-maker
The Lions can’t compete unless Stafford has two healthy ankles.
Against the Steelers, Stafford was elusive, decisive and sneaky-quick. He moved in the pocket. Slipped outside the pocket. Ran when he had an opening … without hesitation.
Because of the Lions’ secrecy surrounding injuries – along with Stafford’s reluctance to talk about his ailments – it’s easy to assume that the (relative) drop-off in play was his own doing. Turns out it wasn’t.
The Lions’ quarterback hadn’t looked like this the last two games. He could barely get out of the pocket against the Saints. And as willing as he was against Carolina three weeks ago – he injured his ankle that game – his didn’t move well for most of that game, either.
Well, the off-week helped. Too bad it didn’t help his receivers grow a few inches. He could’ve used some bigger targets in the red zone .
Between the 20-yard-lines, though, Stafford was masterful. Dropping throws into tiny windows and throwing deep balls on the run.
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