It's pretty grim for the Lions right now. As we've discussed before, the season isn't dead yet but it's certainly on life support.
They almost—not quite, but almost—need to win out. That's the obvious note here: win some games. Win the divisional games most of all, but just win.
However, there are more specific things which the team needs to do in order the be able to win games.
Aside from "not lose," of course.
The Lions have been atrocious in the first quarter this season, especially for an offense which was supposed to be so explosive.
In nine games this year, they have scored just 28 points in the first quarter. Four times they have been completely blanked.
Too many times this season, the vaunted Lions offense has been slow out of the blocks and it's killing them—and if wasn't already, it will against Green Bay, Houston, Atlanta and, possibly, Chicago and Indianapolis.
Stafford and the offense have to get into a rhythm earlier. It doesn't mean they have to bomb it all over the field on every down, but they have to stay on the field, eat up clock, gain yards and, most importantly, put points on the board.
It's taking them far too long to get their act together and too often, by the time they have gotten around to moving the ball effectively, they are playing catch-up.
Actually, it didn't work against the Titans either.
Get going early and jump start the offense, however they can.
This isn't about stats. Stafford has had a ton of good games, yardage-wise.
Although he could cut down on the turnovers, this is something he's improved on of late. No, this is about how he's playing, in general. Matthew Stafford has regressed. He looks less comfortable and less patient. His accuracy has suffered as has his decision-making, which explains his decline this year.
"Why" isn't readily apparent. He just has.
Stafford, head coach Jim Schwartz and anyone else on the offensive side of the ball should be (if they aren't already) poring over every scrap of tape from this season and last to pinpoint just what the dickens is going on.
Stafford is struggling horribly in the first half and, as noted on the previous slide, especially in the first quarter. He and his receivers aren't on the same page early on in games. At this point in the season, that is unacceptable.
Since he's the quarterback, that's on him.
Matthew Stafford needs him to wake up and improve—and soon.
Sure, the ground game seems like the sort of thing a team like the Lions wouldn't care about, but really it's exactly the sort of thing to which they have to pay attention.
First of all, getting the running game going early will help them set the tone for the game and get the team into a rhythm much more quickly. It will also put the defense on its heels and keep it from just teeing off on Stafford or blanketing receivers. If the running backs are a credible threat, then teams will have to defend them as such. It will also set up play-action passes, which will help keep the defense off-balance, as well.
Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell are a solid combo for the Lions and, given some good blocking and creative play-calling, can be very effective. Against a team like the Packers (which you can run on), they could really carry the offense.
Without the ground attack, the offense becomes too one dimensional, and with Stafford's struggles and Calvin Johnson's injury, it's too easy to stymie.
Get the running game going. Build on it and good things will happen.
There is only so much you can do about injuries, which has been the bane of the secondary.
That said, they have to figure something out, since they will be thrown on by teams which await them down the stretch. Pressure from the front seven will help but only so much.
And that's assuming nobody replicates the ways the Niners and Vikings negated that rush.
Chris Houston appears to be ready this week for the game against the Packers and his presence is vital to the success of this defense. Louis Delmas is off crutches and will be back soon (maybe two weeks). Drayton Florence should be back from the IR/designated for return list. The team picked up Pat Lee.
At least they are trying something—anything—to get the secondary on track.
It's critical because of the slow starts on the offensive side of the ball, but also because, late in games, teams are trying to come back from a deficit or kill the clock and add to a lead.
That has to stop.
You're giving away so much field position...so much so that you're giving the game away. The Lions have had this problem for some time. Every year, both the team and its supporters shrug and say it will change. But the simple truth is, they get flagged.
A ton. Overall the team is 27th in the league in penalties, averaging seven a game.
Again, you're just handing over yards and, ultimately, points. The games they have coming up are, for the most part, against disciplined, smart teams, which don't make a ton of mistakes. So the Lions cannot make them either.
Lest you think it's all about defensive penalties, the offense has had its fair share of drive-killing penalties, too: illegal procedures, motion penalties, holding infractions, etc.
Across the board, this team needs to avoid the bad penalties. Otherwise the previous four points are moot.
Check out the B/R NFC North Facebook page—like us and keep up with everything NFC North on Bleacher Report.
Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.