Following their 41-10 thrashing of the Denver Broncos in Week 8 and a bye in Week 9, Detroit Lions fans had high hopes as the Honolulu blue traveled to Chicago for their Week 10 battle against the Chicago Bears. Throw in the Lions decisive Monday Night Football victory over Chicago in Week 5 and those hopes seemed justified, or at the very least reasonable.
In the wake of Sunday's 37-13 blowout loss, Lions fans are now merely hoping their team can stay afloat in the NFC Playoff race.
In a display which was more reminiscent to Lions teams of the past couple seasons, Detroit was unable to produce a single thing on offense—aside from several costly turnovers. The debauchery began with the opening whistle as wideout Calvin Johnson promptly fumbled the ball over to the home team on just the sixth play from scrimmage. That set up the Bears for a four play piece-of-cake scoring drive capped off by a six yard Matt Forte score.
The ensuing drive was eerily similar to the first as No. 2 wideout Nate Burleson again put the ball on the ground for the Bears to snatch up. The Chicago offense was limited to a field goal following that turnover, but the damage had already been done. Lions' fans on the sideline revealed many deer-in-the-headlight type of stares.
Things got no better when the Lions Special Teams committed the ultimate sin against the Bears team by punting the ball in the vicinity of arguably the greatest kick returner of all time in Devin Hester. The return phenom muffed the catch, then looked up and found a seam to the sideline which he followed all the way in for an 82-yard score.
Down 20 points, Scott Linehan's offense was able to muster up only two field goals in the remainder of the half, which came to a conclusion with the score 20-6 in favor of Chicago. Still, down only two scores the Lions went into the locker room with a conviction that this game was still up for grabs.
That feeling didn't last long.
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The Lion defense did their part in forcing a three and out on the Bears opening drive, giving the ball back to the offense to make the run needed to get back into the contest. Detroit's momentum was blindsided, however, when on the Lions second offensive play quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a ball that had no chance to be caught by anyone other than Chicago defenseman Major Wright. Wright waltzed 25 yards into the end zone for the Pick Six.
With the momentum shifted back to the Bears, Stafford returned to the field anxious to rebuke for this costly error. The Lions signal-caller then inexplicably made a throw oddly similar to his previous interception three plays earlier. It ended in the same result—this time with Bears cornerback Charles Tillman trotting in for the touchdown.
In less than two minutes, the Bears lead had grown from two scores to four without any influence from their offense. If the game were a boxing match it would have surely been ended after these two knockout blows.
Down 34-6, the Lions chances were effectively extinguished. The offense did little to reclaim any dignity, failing to put any more points on the board until midway through the fourth, when the game had turned into more of a WWE spectacle than a football game.
Even the ugly 37-13 final score didn't do justice to the one-sidedness of this game, which really didn't feel competitive at any point. Detroit's offense was unable to put anything together, other than points for their opponent, and gave the team absolutely no chance to win.
Lost in the shuffle was a somewhat counter-intuitive truth: The Lions defense actually played quite well in this one.
The final count is deceiving, but a closer look reveals that the Bears offense was only able to put the ball in the end zone on one occasion, which was Forte's initial scoring run. The Bears were held to just three field goals offensively after this first drive—quite an accomplishment for the Detroit D which will surely be forgotten by most onlookers.
It is clear that this game was lost purely due to Detroit's inability to hold on to the ball, and to do the little things right. Trying to overcome six turnovers is already an exercise in futility. Add in an inexplicable kick to Hester and it's clear that the Lions gave this game away to Chicago more than the Bears actually earned the victory.
Moving forward, the Lions must come away thinking positively: Had they not shot themselves in the foot, repeatedly with a bazooka, then they would have had a chance to win this football game. Whether or not they are able to keep their heads up in this fashion will determine a lot in weeks to come, as they face the strong Packers and Saints back to back after a Week 11 game against Carolina in Detroit next Sunday.
This is a young team which clearly still has a lot of potential, and it will be the job of Jim Schwartz and the rest of the coaching staff to mold this ugly loss into a learning experience for Stafford and the others. If they are unable to renew their team's belief in themselves, then the Lions could be headed for a second-half implosion in 2011.
However, if they are able to come in to next weeks matchup with renewed confidence with their sights still set on a playoff spot, then they can surely still attain that goal. It seemed ever so unlikely not so long ago.
It is officially time for the boys in Motown to put up or shut up.