At Ford Field Sunday, the Detroit Lions lost yet another game and ended their dismal season with a 37-23 loss to rival the Chicago Bears before an announced sellout.
The negative records for the Lions keep growing and growing. They have lost an amazing 30 of their last 32 games. Even more incredible is the fact they have not beaten a Central Division opponent in 15 consecutive games.
The 2-14 Lions did play hard and even took a 10-6 lead in the second quarter with 2:59 to play in the half when Daunte Culpepper connected with receiver Bryant Johnson on a 12-yard touchdown pass.
But as the game progressed one could see the Bears (7-9) were more physical and a better team, plus the Lions were again plagued by the same problems on offense and defense.
“That’s something that you have to minimize,” said defensive end Jason Hunter. “We are professional athletes. There are going to be mistakes, but if you constantly have the same mistakes every game, teams are going to see that on film and it is just going to hurt us. That’s something that we’ll have to work on, just get in the film room and see what hurt us and focus on that. This way we can come back in 2010 and have a solid year.
Said Lions coach Jim Schwartz in the post game press conference: “I don’t want to say outmanned, let’s just say they were physical mistakes. I don’t know that we had missed assignments that cost us, they were technique errors, and there were missed tackles, errant passes or something like that, more physical mistakes.”
Well, Schwartz’s word may describe the situation of the field, but us Lions watchers have been seeing that same old story line for far too long. And, guess what, I do not see the end of this downslide coming anytime soon. Let’s face it, we are in yet another rebuilding mode.
Schwartz deserves and gets a free pass this year. After all, he did take over a team that had established a NFL record with a 0-16 record. So taking over this team automatically gave him at least two to three years to show what he can do to get this franchise back to respectability.
However, I cannot help but be somewhat disappointed in the way the Lions lost too many games this season. I think most people’s expectations saw them at least winning four or five games. In fact, there were at least three games they could have and should have won.
The Lions post game locker room was like a morgue. I got the feeling most of the players could not wait to get away from the game they love. No matter what people think of these players, almost every one one of them have been winners in high school and college. I could see and feel the pain and anguish on their faces as they packed up their bags for the last time. No one likes being labeled a loser.
“I’m disappointment,” said linebacker Ernie Sims. “We just didn’t accomplish what we strived to do in the off-season with the people we brought in, the new acquisitions we made, new coaches, a new coaching staff. They flipped the whole script and they took everybody out and brought new people in and it just hasn’t changed. We’re still losing. We’re not doing what it takes to win.
“Losing is losing. Just because we won two games it doesn’t make it feel better. Losing is losing, and that’s what I’ve been experiencing ever since I’ve been here. We need to turn this thing around. I’m sick of losing. Yeah, I’m not perfect, I don’t do everything I have to do to win, but I’m only one person on the team.”
As Sims noted, they flipped the script and this off-season many are predicting that there could be a turnover of 70 to 80 percent of the players.
Whatever the Lions do, it will have to start with the defensive side of the ball. When a team gives up 494 points in a season — fourth worst in NFL history — something has to change.
“I know this sound crazy,” linebacker Julian Peterson said, “but we were not as bad as our record. We had some injuries and other things started to overtake this team. I think with the young players they have here, they have something to build on. But the fact of the matter is it is a process.”
Concurred Sims: “It seems like with the people that we brought in, we were on the right track, and I do believe we were going to be on the right track but it doesn’t show this year. The guys that we drafted played very well this year after having to step in.”
It will be another long interesting off-season. But this will be the year Schwartz and Martin Mayhew will come off that free pass. In 2010 they will have put a better product on the field.
Leland Stein can be reached at email@example.com.
photo credit: susansternberg.wordpress.com