I knew this day would come, I just didn’t know when. I was fully aware that the Lions would not win all 16 contests this year, but as a fan there is hope for every game. The Lions’ streak has come to an end, and now I have to write about a Lions loss for the first time.
Honestly, I thought it would happen sooner. Down 20-0 in the Metrodome I all but wrote the Lions off, and then the following week in Dallas the Lions again snagged victory from the jaws of defeat. While it was finally time for Detroit to lose its first game of the year, at 5-1 the Lions are still very much in the hunt for the playoffs, so don’t jump off the bandwagon yet.
At times today I very much wanted to jump, especially when I took a closer look at Matt Stafford and the offense. The offense had many opportunities to take full control of the game, but failed to do so time and time again. What was even more frustrating was the fact that the Lions used their most dangerous offensive weapon so sparingly. Yes, Calvin Johnson had over 100 yards again, but was targeted just nine times. Nine targets may sound like a lot, but considering Stafford attempted 50 passes, nine is not enough for a player of Johnson’s caliber.
The 49ers had no answer for Johnson all game, as he reeled in seven of his nine targets for 113 yards, including a 41 yard catch and run where Johnson stiff-armed one defender to the ground and ran over another. However, late in the game, Stafford seemed to ignore Johnson, throwing to Nate Burleson on a fourth and five with under two minutes to play. Burleson was unable to catch the ball as defensive back Carlos Rodgers jumped the route and broke up the pass. Throughout the game, Stafford never looked comfortable in the pocket, as a stout 49er pass rush hurried him continually and sacked him five times.
The story of the Lions day was their inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Early in the game, the defense forced a turnover in 49er territory, but the drive fell short of the end zone after a costly penalty down at the two yard line. The Lions also had to settle for a field goal later in the game despite getting the ball inside the 49ers’ ten yard line. In the fourth quarter with less than eight minutes to play, the Lions led by four points, and had a chance to go ahead by two scores with a touchdown.
Calvin made the most of his opportunities, but did he get enough of them?
With good field position near midfield, the Lions promptly went three and out, which led to the game winning score for San Francisco.
However, the game winning catch by Delanie Walker on a fourth and goal from the six yard line won’t be the biggest news from this game. That headline belongs to Jim Harbaugh.
The postgame handshake proved to be a problem once again for the 49ers head coach, as he and Jim Schwartz had a lengthy exchange after the game. Of course this was not the first incident for Harbaugh, who also had a heated exchange while coaching at Stanford with then USC head coach Pete Carroll. This time around,
Schwartz took exemption to a disrespectful celebration and slap on the back from Harbaugh. Schwartz ran at Harbaugh after the handshake and the two had to be separated several times as Schwartz tried to get at the San Francisco head coach.
Return man Stefan Logan tweeted after the game “Tough [loss] today. That really hit us hard. We will regroup tomorrow and get better. But I like the way our coach had our back today.”
It seems as though coach Schwartz does have his player’s backs, as well as their respect. Schwartz has done a remarkable job over the last three years, creating a contending team from the ashes of 0-16. Whether his actions were right or not is debatable, but I like the enthusiasm Schwartz has, and his tenacity is undeniable.
So, while today was thatday for me, I still see a Lions team that can contend once they get a little more consistent. They are very well coached and this loss will fuel them to get better, and get better they will. Don’t worry yet- I don’t see myself having too many more of these days.