The Detroit Lions stalled in the second half of last Sunday’s game, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 37-27.
Although Matthew Stafford and the Lions stringed together a strong second quarter, it still wasn’t enough to extend their NFC North lead nor overcome Ben Roethlisberger and a resurgent Steelers squad.
Now in a tie with the Chicago Bears (6-4) for the top spot in the NFC North, and with the Green Bay Packers lurking in the shadows, instead of being on the outside looking in, Detroit is on the inside ready to be thrown out by its divisional foes.
Is it time to push the panic button in Detroit?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an abysmal 2-8. However, those two victories have come in consecutive weeks. You can say those victories were against struggling opponents that weren’t much good anyway.
But what is Tampa Bay?
This team cannot be underestimated. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson flourished in the first two quarters against Pittsburgh, but were essentially shutdown in the second half.
“Big Ben” torched Detroit, as he passed for 367 yards, four touchdowns and committed no turnovers. Since the Steelers are a one-dimensional offense, such numbers should not have been achieved.
If it feels like the Lions might regress to their putrid years of the past, that shouldn’t be the concern.
They still have a grasp on first place in the NFC North and with a favorable schedule down the stretch, chances of hoisting the division title are still in the Lions’ favor.
But the panic doesn’t come with their schedule—it’s with their lack of a sense of urgency. Things don’t seem to click until the scoreboard indicates the game is getting ugly. It’s great to see miraculous comebacks, but those can’t occur every game.
Pittsburgh led 17-3 before the Lions steamrolled the Steelers in the second quarter and poured in 27 points. Against Dallas in Week 8, they needed 24 points in the fourth quarter to overcome the Cowboys in the waning moments of the game. Not taking away from their ability to retaliate when down, but it shouldn’t take a beat down to awaken the inner Lion in every Detroit player on the field.
Although only two opponents .500 and above (the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers) remain on its schedule, there are no gimmies for Detroit.
If the Lions continue to start games so lackadaisical, comebacks or 20-point quarters may be irrelevant. Jim Schwartz needs to rally his boys and show them what this season could mean to the city and for the franchise.
Against the Buccaneers, Stafford needs to make a statement on the opening drive and never look back. He needs to regain his composure after composing a splendid first half against Pittsburgh, and then having such an appalling second half.
Despite the poor record, Tampa Bay is in the middle of the pack as far as defense, and ranks a few spots behind Detroit with its rushing defense. Facing a team with nothing to lose, on a hot streak and looking to ruin other teams’ playoff hopes, the Lions cannot go into this game sluggish.
If Detroit expects to stay relevant in its competitive division, it needs to bounce back immediately this Sunday. Playing against a possibly Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay squad a few days after facing Tampa Bay gives the Lions an opportunity to possibly boost their lead to three games (should Chicago lose in St. Louis and Detroit wins both of its matchups). The Lions must take advantage of this opportunity.
The sense of urgency needs to emerge, and the Lions need to prosper in these upcoming matchups.