It was all but a must-win, and the Lions didn’t win.
This loss hurt. It hurt to see Calvin Johnson stone cold drop a sure long gainer. It hurt to see Matthew Stafford again struggle to make good reads quickly, struggle to stand tall in the pocket, and struggle to execute the offense efficiently. It hurt to see Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell pound the vaunted Bears defense for five yards a carry and each lose a scoring-drive-killing fumble.
It hurt to see the Lions excel on special teams: block a field goal, allowing only 1 return of 4 to exceed five yards—and then have Stefan Logan lose yet another fumble.
It hurt to see the Lions defense kick the Bears' ass and lose.
The Lions are 2-4, two games below .500 and functionally three-and-a-half games behind the Bears. The sputtering offense is scoring just 22.2 points per game—and despite the defense allowing just 18 points per game, the six non-offensive touchdowns scored on the Lions are mean they have a –2.8 point per game scoring differential. They’re –5 in turnovers, ranked 25th in the NFL. That’s down from +11 last season, which was fourth-best.
So far, it’s been all but a Murphy’s Law season for the Lions: they have two semi-miracle comeback wins and three that fell just a bit short. They’re seemingly inches from being 4-3 or 5-2, yet they’re no further from 0-6. The offense seems like it’s this close to putting everything together, and yet if they haven’t by now when will they? The defense is playing out of its mind and getting better every week—but how long can that last?
Fortunately, it’s a short wait to this weekend, and a game against a team much like the Bears. The Lions will face a Seahawks team with just as vicious of a defense, just as strong of a running game, and with a quarterback even harder to pin down.
But it will be during the day, in the welcoming den of Ford Field, instead of at night in the Windy City. It won’t be in front of a primetime national audience. It won’t have any of the historic, bitter import. It won’t have any of the divisional implications. It’ll just be another football game—one the Lions, again, will have the talent to win.
But this time, it will be a must-win. There will be no “margin for error,” as Jim Schwartz said. The Lions, as ever in the Schwartz era, are victims of playing in the best division in football. Had they won this game they’d still be in the cellar, even at .500. This Sunday, the Lions offense has to execute. The Lions defense cannot take their foot off the gas. The Lions special teams cannot blow it again.
The Lions must win.