In yesterday’s gameday post, I said:
Today is either the day the Lions roar back to respectability--or the day the scavengers pick their bones clean.
Well, we have our answer.
I actually fell asleep in the second half. What was the point? Ray Rice was running at will, the Lions couldn’t score to save their lives, and—against all rational thought—Daunte Culpepper played until the bitter end.
It beggars belief: he completed only 16 of his 34 passes, for only 135 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. It was a long, miserable day by any measure. What doesn't show in those numbers, however, is this play:
(13:41) (Shotgun) 11-D.Culpepper FUMBLES (Aborted) at DET 50, and recovers at DET 50. 11-D.Culpepper to DET 50 for no gain (26-D.Landry).
That play emobdies everything I always scream about with Culpepper. It’s the second quarter. The Lions are down by just three points, having already missed a field goal. After driving into Baltimore territory, two straight three-yard runs by Kevin Smith put the Lions in a 3rd-and-4 situation.
This is what they call keeping your offense “on schedule”; giving the offense a great chance to convert on third down. It’s what good offenses do, and it’s an ability Lions offenses have lacked since . . well, ever. With this favorable situation, Linehan went to his “third and short” playbook, and pulled out a play from a shotgun, multi-WR set—doubtlessly looking to give Culpepper several close, easy targets. If the Lions convert, they’re at Baltimore’s 40, or closer, with a new set of downs. Instead, Raiola’s shotgun snap hits Culpepper in the hands, and he drops it.
It’ll show up on the stat sheet as a fumble, yes—but not a “lost” fumble, and certainly not as a “an inexcusable f-up that absolutely killed his team’s chances to win”, which is what it was. Culpepper’s entire career—yes, even when he was almost MVP or whatever—has been afflicted with this plague: an incredible knack for making horrible plays at the worst possible times.
After a punt, and two plays, Derrick Mason took a pair of brutal hits, ran to the end zone, and opened the floodgates. While this was arguably the result of the Lions’ DBs going for big hits instead of tackling, I’d submit that Mason is on a two-man list of Receivers Tough Enough To Take That Hit and Keep Standing. Really, at that point, the defense had still done remarkably well.
For all the press about '”RAVENS DESTROY LIONS IN LAUGHABLE BLOWOUT”, with three minutes left in the first half, the Lions were down by only two score. They had the ball on their own 28, and had just begun a drive that could bring it to a 1-TD deficit. Then . . .
Ravens drive and field goal.
28 unanswered points.
I hope Schwartz isn’t just blowing smoke when he called this performance was “unacceptable”, because that’s exactly what it was. The defense simply rolled over. After standing tall against one of the better rushing offenses in football last week, the Lions allowed 308 yards rushing on 40 attempts; 7.7 YpC.
Meanwhile, the offense kept pounding its head against the wall . . . hoping, I guess that the wall would break? Granted, conditions were absolutely wretched out there—at one point, it appeared to be a downpour of freezing rain—but it seemed like there was an impenetrable forcefield at the Ravens’ 30-yard line. Stafford can’t come back soon enough.
Speaking of which, is there anyone who still thinks that Daunte gives the Lions the "best chance to win"? Even if he did, would it matter? Drew Stanton again was robbed of any chance to prove himself—why? We know Culpepper won’t be back here next year. Kevin Smith blew out his ACL, and possibly ruined his 2010 campaign—why? To what end? What on earth were he and Daunte still doing out there?
Let’s face it: the 2009 season is now over. There’s no point in veterans veterans over youth if said veterans aren’t part of the future plans. Believe you me, there are some players on this team whose walking papers were filled out yesterday afternoon; I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those papers were served at some point this week.
The Lions need to move on from this loss, and this season, as quickly as possible: cut the deadwood, sign some practice squadders, and get on with the business of Maybe Next Year.