Back to reality, Lions fans. Man, does this suck.
Regardless the approximate 80,000 words I have offered since mid-June detailing how the Detroit Lions offseason acquisitions would produce a plethora of points, the Chicago Bears and their still-solid defense reminded the Pride faithful that good defense still matters, and if you put your eggs in the offensive basket, expect them to get crushed.
Today, the yolk runs down my face as well as the faces of the Detroit Lions front office and leadership, not the players.
Today was another reminder that while the team is clearly improving, there is still much this club must do to attain their first winning season in 15 years.
In the team’s defense, I marveled at the relentless pressure and undying attack from the Detroit Lions defensive line.
As Willie Young was inactive for today’s contest, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps he could have stepped in during the fourth quarter and made a play like he had during the preseason, sealing the deal for the Lions.
I wondered if the Lions had better used their timeouts when opportunity knocked, if that would not indeed be the most expensive door unopened on an 80-degree, sunny day near the western banks of Lake Michigan.
I seethed that the Lions were asked not only to travel on the road to defeat their long-time nemesis, but also that Detroit would have to beat the referees in Chicago as well.
Same old crap, different day.
This was not the “same old Lions” we had seen over the past two seasons. Oh no, sir. The Detroit Lions have a defensive line in 2010.
I want you to say something with me today, people, and I want you to get used to saying it. Ready?
“The Detroit Lions defense kept the Lions in the game.”
Today, even steaming-hot mad in defeat, I have never been more proud of my Detroit Lions defense.
Today I saw on display the moxie that I expected to see with this retooled defensive line. They were every bit as advertised.
Offseason acquisition right defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch led the Detroit Lions defenders with 10 solo tackles and one assist, while flying around the field making play after play. This defensive line is a reflection of his unbridled work ethic.
Defensive tackle Corey Williams, also acquired during the 2010 offseason, contributed five tackles and got his first sack of the season on the road against Jay Cutler.
Third-year defensive tackle Andre Fluellen got two tackles and defensive end Turk McBride enjoyed the lineman’s hat trick of one tackle, one sack, and one forced fumble.
I believe the Turk is owed “one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer (by every player on the offense, as is every other Lions defender so entitled).”
The second overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft made his presence felt in Chicago and was officially credited with one tackle and one sack.
On one particular play, Ndamukong Suh sped around the edge and stripped the ball out of Jay Cutler’s hand, but a fortuitous bounce helped the former Commodore to recover his own fumble quickly.
Defensive end Cliff Avril was cat-quick all day, as is his usual way, picking up a fumble and returning the ball for 10 yards, and Sammie Lee Hill looked great when his number was called, getting a tackle, a fumble recovery, and his first sack of the 2010 campaign.
The Detroit Lions defensive line has got some horses in the stable, folks, and they appear to be well equipped to pull a heavy load.
If the offense does not improve drastically, it may be a heavy yoke to bear this fall.
I don’t believe it was so much the Lions’ inability to find a solution for Matt Forte’s 151 yards and two touchdowns receiving that was to blame for the Detroit loss as it was the offense’s lack of firepower once their starting quarterback was lost to a throwing-shoulder injury “courtesy” of a Julius Peppers sack.
The defense allowed only 19 points on the road in Chicago, which, by professional standards, is giving your team more than a fighting chance to win the game.
It was Detroit’s offensive failure to generate 21 or more points that would ruin the day.
The offseason acquisitions of tight end Tony Scheffler, wide receiver Nate Burleson, left guard Rob Sims, and running back Jahvid Best wasn’t nearly enough to overcome an aging, yet still stout Chicago defense.
Despite No. 44 getting into the end zone twice to start his Detroit Lions career, Best was only able to garner 20 rushing yards from scrimmage on 14 attempts that included a long run of eight yards. Jahvid managed less than a yard-and-a-half average per carry.
That is a far cry from his 8.6 yards per carry average during the preseason, or the lofty 7.3 average yards per carry he enjoyed during his tenure in Berkeley, Calif.
Today Jahvid Best was being chased by a defense that could catch him, nullifying his game-changing speed.
Despite the two touchdowns Best scored, he was relatively quiet on the day, and was held to an all-time low of less than 1.43 yards per carry.
Welcome to the NFC North, Jahvid. They play defense here.
There was very even distribution of the ball to the various targets: six catches by wide receivers, seven catches by the tight ends, and seven catches by the running backs.
Unfortunately, once starting second-year quarterback Matthew Stafford was lost to injury for the game, when he was sacked by Bears defensive end Julius Peppers at the end of the first half, the Lions had no answer for the Bears defense.
Too many three-and-outs and too little, too late would cause to sputter the supposedly “high octane” Lions offense.
Today was proof on both sidelines that if your “play makers” aren’t making plays, then you won’t score enough to win, even if your own defense does a remarkable job.
Despite one play where the Bears receiver dropped a Cutler pass when he had C.C. Brown beat in the end zone, I didn’t see the Detroit Lions back seven as any particular liability to the defense’s ability to be successful; rather I saw a hard-hitting crew that pounded the Bears to force fumbles and create an interception.
On a third-down play with 20 yards to go, Jay Cutler threw into triple coverage, and five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson tipped the pass high into the air behind the Chicago receiver, where C.C. Brown batted the ball forward to a waiting Aaron Berry who got the Cutler interception and made a nice interception return to set up the Lions for a good drive.
Julian Peterson was all over the field today for the Lions, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. Julian contributed four tackles and two assists while also recovering a fumble.
It was weird to see No. 98 again for the Lions, when J-Pete had worn No. 59 last season. Back to his number with San Fran.
I thought Landon Johnson did a fine job stepping up in place of injured starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy.
Landon made three tackles on the afternoon and looked good on his assignments. When he was hurt, Ashlee Palmer stepped in and immediately filled the void with no drop off in play.
The play of the linebacker corps did not hurt the Detroit Lions in Chicago, save for when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was able to identify the Forte v. Peterson mismatch and threw a perfect ball just beyond the fingertips of the outstretched former Spartan.
Peterson displayed tremendous athleticism on the play, but it just was not meant to be, as the Bears running back hauled in the pass and made the Lions pay.
The other time the Lions were caused to pay by Matt Forte, he turned a short pass into an 87-yard touchdown scamper. Forte has true football speed and can go the distance, which he proved by gaining more than 200 yards in total offense against the Lions.
Whatever yardage the Detroit Lions defense gave up to the air or ground game is immaterial to me at this point, as scoring defense is the key. If your defense allows on 19 points on Sunday, they’ve given their offense a legitimate chance to win.
If the offense cannot score 21 points or more, the onus is on them for the loss, and they must find a way to derive production from the “multitude of weapons.”
When Calvin Johnson is held to four catches for 45 yards receiving, the offense has a problem.
When the WR2, Nate Burleson, is able to contribute only one catch for 19 yards, the WR3, Bryant Johnson is able to get only one reception for 24 yards, and the starting running back gains only 20 yards on 14 carries, the team cannot be successful, which was the case in Chicago.
When your offensive weapons fail to launch, you will lose.
That’s what happened to the Detroit Lions at the hands of the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010.
The Detroit Lions offense had far too many three-and-out offensive series to be successful. You can’t do that on the road and expect to win, as such was the outcome.
Tony Scheffler had a good game by making six catches that gained 43 yards, while Brandon Pettigrew caught one ball for six yards and dropped another pass that hit him in the hands.
The Lions had poor field position for most of the game and punted often from the shadow of their goal posts.
Despite Chicago having the upper hand in field position all day, the Detroit defense played strong all the way. The Lions created four turnovers on the road in Chicago, but it wasn’t enough.
Despite the fact that the Lions defense was outscored by the Bears offense, I don’t view it as a failure, but rather a success of a peculiar sort.
We got to see defensive backs who had the same pound-for-pound moxie as their defensive line brethren up front.
They hit the opponent hard and often, as free safety Louis Delmas, strong safety C.C. Brown, and cornerback Chris Houston each created a forced fumble.
A weak secondary doesn’t do that, Lions fans, just in case you were wondering. Certain members of the media have tried to suggest to you that the Lions secondary is indeed the weakest link on this ball club, or that the linebacker corps lacks the ability to effectively compete and that they lack depth.
I didn’t see any of that today, people. What I saw was a determined back seven that never backed down in the face of adversity.
They missed the play on Forte’s 87-yard score, but it wasn’t that play in and of itself that led to the Lions demise at Soldier Field.
Obviously, the offense is far from “fixed” if they can only manage 14 points, Stafford or no Stafford. Shaun Hill is a perfectly competent former starting quarterback; he just isn’t Matthew Stafford.
My hopes for a good season, a winning season, are not diminished. I am still every bit as excited about the next 15 games to be played as I was the game today in Chicago that finished only hours ago.
I don’t agree with the call in the end zone that stole a touchdown pass and catch from the Detroit Lions and their loyal fans. Unfortunately, it was the sum failure of all of the previous three-and-outs allowed by the Lions offense that doomed the team on Sunday, September 12, 2010.
All in all, when the Lions finally showed the courage to get after the end zone, it was simply too little too late.
Quarterback Shaun Hill threw the ball into the end zone for wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and Johnson went up and got the ball with his 6’5” frame, displaying tremendous athleticism in the process.
Calvin caught a touchdown pass with 24 seconds remaining in the contest that was disallowed by the officiating crew.
On the next play, Bears defensive back Manning roughed up Calvin Johnson, but there was no call.
The Lions would never again connect, and failed to score, losing on the road.
Watching Peppers converse with Stafford on the field at the post-game conclusion bore the evidence of why the Lions lost the game.
Without Stafford, the 2010 Detroit Lions team, regardless the outstanding efforts of a relentless defense, is a listless offense that wanders without the mindful guidance of their young shepherd.
Speedy recovery, Matthew.
We’ll talk Tuesday.
GO LIONS WIN!
As an administrative note, I will be conducting an interview with Detroit Lions starting quarterback Matthew Stafford on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, courtesy of AXE Hair, and will make the article available to the Bleacher Report Detroit Lions community straightway thereafter.