Detroit finishes the season at 7-9, a disappointing conclusion to what had been such a promising 6-3 start. This loss continued the humiliating string of losing games despite having a lead in the fourth quarter.
With the games now done, it's speculation season. Depending on whose reports you believe, this may or may not have been Jim Schwartz's last game as the head coach of the Lions. There may or may not be radical changes to the front office as well.
It's going to be a very interesting week of Lions' news coming up. Before we get to that, here are the takeaways from the season finale.
Games with no playoff implications are great barometers to see which players are dialed in and which ones are simply collecting paychecks.
Some Lions players clearly cared.
Joique Bell ran like a man playing for a new contract, which he was as an impending restricted free agent. Unfortunately he did not get many opportunities to strut his stuff.
Punter Sam Martin turned in an outstanding effort...which was crucial because he was inordinately busy.
Ndamukong Suh deflected two passes at the line and showed his heart by chasing down Matt Asiata 39 yards down the field on Minnesota's final possession. He was dominant most of the afternoon.
Louis Delmas came up with a couple of big plays, including an interception in the end zone to prevent a Vikings score. He wasn't always effective, but there will be no questioning of his desire to win.
Coaches and personnel executives absolutely pay close attention to which players never let up, even in a meaningless game. Fans shouldn't either; these are the players the disgruntled fan base must thank for trying.
Unfortunately, not every Detroit player brought the passion or effort to Minnesota.
Most notable among those who should be ashamed was safety Glover Quin As I noted during the second quarter:
G. Quin needs to hit the showers. Got flattened by Cassel on Patterson run, whiffed on a lazy tackle, ignores the TE in coverage.— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) December 29, 2013
Nick Fairley also came out like he missed his wake-up call. This is not anything new for the mercurial defensive tackle, who is often wildly inconsistent. Fairley was nonexistent early before coming out of the halftime tunnel as if his life depended on it.
If this was indeed Dominic Raiola's last game as Detroit's center, as Chris McCosky of the Detroit News broached this week, he went out with a whimper. Without not questioning his effort, he's certainly played better games.
Others who did not appear to have their A-games included Kris Durham (invisible with no catches) and Jeremy Ross, who was ineffective as both a return man and a receiver. To say he mailed in his effort is inaccurate, but it was not an impressive outing for Ross.
There is coming out flat, and there is coming out awful. The Lions veered strongly towards the latter.
Check out these first-half numbers:
|Plays||Rushing Yards||Passing Yards||Yards Per Play||First Downs||Points|
The play-calling was very vanilla. No doubt some of that was a function of not having Calvin Johnson to impact the defense, but the Lions failed to take any shots beyond about 12 yards down the field.
The run-blocking was not as effective as it has been, and Reggie Bush had little pep to his step. Pass protection was also subpar compared to recent efforts.
It was one of the ugliest performances in a long time. This was not a half any Lions player—or fan, for that matter—will ever want to watch again.
Detroit did make a little history in the NFL stat books on a few fronts.
The running back duo of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush proved they are the most versatile package in the entire league:
Reggie Bush hit 500 receiving yds w/ TD. He and Joique Bell 1st RBs on same team to each have 500 yds rec & 500 yds rushing in NFL history.— Paula Pasche (@paulapasche) December 29, 2013
Bush wasn't done, however, as he vaulted himself into impressive territory with a fourth-quarter run.
Reggie Bush with a 7-yard run to put him over 1,000 yards for the season.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 29, 2013
It's his second 1,000-yard rushing season.
Matthew Stafford also made some statistical noise:
For those who care, Bush is over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and Stafford 2nd QB to throw for 4,500 yards in three straight seasons.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) December 29, 2013
Of course, all those numbers didn't translate into success, but it's still pretty impressive nonetheless. It makes the lack of wins seem even more intolerable.
With impressive rookie right tackle LaAdrian Waddle sidelined with an injury, veteran Jason Fox got the starting nod.
Fox is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and this was his golden opportunity to prove he's worthy of a potential starting gig.
He did not play well. Aside from the pictured hold (which was not flagged), Fox struggled against Minnesota's defensive ends all afternoon.
Even when the Lions started rolling help his way, using guard Larry Warford as an inside buffer, Fox still couldn't sustain blocks well or keep Stafford protected. On Stafford's intentional grounding penalty in the fourth quarter, it was Fox who was beaten for the pressure that forced the penalty.
With both starting spots appearing to be set in stone in Detroit, Fox needed a strong outing to attract suitors on the open market. Now it's not a given the Lions would want Fox back even as the third offensive tackle.
Three rookies played extensively on defense, and all three played well.
End Ziggy Ansah has been an impact performer all season, and he once again provided a healthy dose of pass-rushing pressure from the left side. He had at least three QB pressures in this game and was very active against the run as well.
Fellow end Devin Taylor has played better as the season progressed, and the fourth-rounder impressed in Minnesota. Despite not making a big dent on the stat sheet, Taylor initially bested his man more often than not.
On Patterson's awesome touchdown run, Taylor played his role correctly by getting outside and forcing the runner back towards his helpers. He made a similar containment on another run later in the game. These are little intricacies that show development and legitimate promise going forward.
Then there was second-round pick Darius Slay. As the yawner of a game wore on, there was a lot of Twitter activity with a similar message to this:
Darius Slay has had a very good game. He's probably never going to be a #1 corner, but the future looks bright for him if he canstay healthy— Lionized (@wearelionized) December 29, 2013
Slay had his struggles throughout the season, but it was easy to see his increased confidence over the last couple of games. He played quite well in Minnesota, showing a natural stickiness in coverage and an enthusiasm for attacking the run.