No, I don’t mean that I’m resigning. I mean we’ve reached—honestly, passed—the point in the season where we have an thorough understanding of what this team is and what this team is capable of. They can give any team on any day a pretty good ballgame. Sometimes, they can pass like a really good passing team. Sometimes, they can run like a good running team. Sometimes, they can bottle up the run. Sometimes, they can rush the passer. Coverage? . . . well, sometimes other teams’ quarterbacks throw bad passes.
Unfortunately, it never all happens in the same game. That’s just not good enough to beat anybody but the dregs of the league, and it’s certainly not good enough to go on the road and take out the #2 team in the AFC. The offensive line, finally, got some decent push in the middle of the line—and what do you know, Kevin Smith had 12 carries for 54 yards in the first half. With Stafford and Megatron both mostly healthy, they proved they’re too talented to contain. The run defense was pretty stout, too; Cedric Benson carried the ball 36 times, but gained only 110 yards (3.06 YpC).
However, Stafford was simply off his game. Almost all of his 26 throws were high and behind; most of the eleven completions required heroic effort by his targets. The lack of offensive consistency simply killed the Lions on Sunday. They were doing all the right things, getting breaks, and playing well, but just couldn’t complete drives.
The whole game turned on one of those drives. Just before the second half, the Lions stalled in Bengal territory. Schwartz sent Jason Hanson out to try a 55-yarder, outside, in December, in Ohio . . . and he hit the crossbar. The Bengals came back the other way in a heartbeat, and hit a 39-yarder of their own. Instead of going into the half down by only four, the Lions were looking up from the bottom of a 10-point hole. They put the game on Matthew Stafford's shoulders, and that proved to be their undoing.
Pass defense was as good it’s been all year, with Julian Peterson bringing heat, and Buchanon, James, Delmas, and Henry making plays in the secondary. Unfortunately, they couldn’t stop Chad Ochocinco forever, and in the second half he blew the game “open”. At that point, the Lions abandoned the run, and . . . well, you’ve heard this story before.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there's simply not enough ability on this roster. There is some: a few incredible young talents, a few cagey veterans who are defying their age, and an impressive amount of heart. These guys can feel how close they are—you can tell they came out of the locker room thinking they had a real chance to win. They didn’t stop fighting, all the way to the end, and that tells you something about these Lions; even if we’re resigned to the notion that they’ll go 2-14, they sure as hell aren’t.