Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 9/30/12
DETROIT A season that started three weeks ago with such great promise is quickly imploding on the Detroit Lions. Expectations had soared for this historically dreadful organization after a 10-win, playoff season a year ago. But they have already reverted to their old ways, evidenced by Sundays 20-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Desperately needing a victory coming off back-to-back losses and facing four of their next five on the road, the Lions were anything but at their best. It was an alarming performance under those circumstances. The Lions gave up a touchdown on the opening kickoff en route to another slapstick special-teams effort. The supposedly high-powered offense wasnt much better, dropping passes in the end zone, fumbling just when it looked like they were starting to put something together and typically having to settle for field goals when they do get close. Were 1-3 right now because we deserve to be 1-3, coach Jim Schwartz said. It hasnt been bad luck. In their last two losses, the Lions have given up five scores that had nothing to do with their supposedly-inferior defense two on kick returns, two on punt returns and one on a fumble return. They became the first team in the NFL since at least 1940 to allow both kick and punt returns for touchdowns in consecutive games. The defense, despite starting a safety (Ricardo Silva) who had just been elevated from the practice squad the night before, actually held its own. Adrian Peterson rushed for 102 yards, but the Vikings offense produced only two field goals and no touchdowns. You knew coming into the season that the Lions could have problems with their special-teams coverage units, along with a secondary that has been depleted by injuries and relies heavily on rookies and aging veterans. What nobody could have foreseen with this team is the supposedly high-powered offense breaking down as it did Sunday when it failed to score a touchdown until the final three minutes. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked five times, one more than the first three games combined. The running game, despite facing a defense that was again playing two safeties deep to take away the downfield passes, was held to 55 yards on 20 carries. We got our butts kicked up front, Schwartz said of the offensive line. Physically, we need to be able to do better. On top of all that, there were the drops by Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew for would-be touchdowns on consecutive plays late in the first half. Johnson took a big hit that jarred the ball loose, but Pettigrews was just another familiar drop by the struggling tight end. Besides special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman, Pettigrew undoubtedly will be the Lion taking the most abuse from Monday morning armchair quarterbacks. He was also the one who got stripped for a fumble return and touchdown last week against Tennessee. The teams counting on me, they call my number, I need to make the plays, Pettigrew said. Big-time players make big-time plays. Right now, Im not being that. Its a concentration thing, flat out just making the play. Pettigrew is far from the only part of the problem, though. The Lions have scored a total of one touchdown in the first half of four games while settling for eight field goals during that time. The offense is being slowed down by the bend-but-dont-break approaches by opposing defenses, which is taking away Detroits big-play strikes in the process. Weve just got to find a way to start faster, Johnson said. This whole play-from-behind thing is getting old, receiver Nate Burleson added. In reality, nobody is consistently making plays other than kicker Jason Hanson. This is a mess of a team entering its bye week, with trips to Philadelphia and Chicago upcoming on the schedule. With the way they look right now combined with their next seven opponents, the Lions are in danger of seriously being out of the playoff race by Thanksgiving. Thats our challenge right now, to dig our way out of this, Schwartz said. Expectations are going to start dropping rapidly following three straight losses. Many will start to start to think that last years success simply might have been an aberration. The hype is gone and everybodys off the bandwagon, Burleson said. Lets get back to that attitude we had when we felt disrespected by every team we face. Ive been on teams where early in the season, you have a start like this and you realize you might as well start figuring out what beach youre laying on in January. You know your team doesnt have what it takes. Could that be true with these Lions? Its a different story in this locker room, Burleson insisted. Thats what most people assumed entering this season, but the last three weeks have madeyou wonder.
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