Lions figure they have some work to do for next season
SEATTLE — Jim Caldwell said it best. Asked to put his team’s disappointing seasonending four-game losing streak into perspective after Saturday’s wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Detroit Lions coach was matter-of-fact in his assessment.
“It just shows that we have some work to do,” Caldwell said.
From top to bottom, that should be the sense in the Lions organization today after they were throttled by a superior team for the fourth straight week.
They failed to score a touchdown Saturday for the second time in a month. They couldn’t stop all-world (or so it seemed) running back Thomas Rawls (Central Michigan). And they proved once and for all that their place in the NFL’s mediocre middle class is secure.
Sure, the Lions made the playoffs and were one of 16 teams to finish the regular season with a winning record. But they played poorly enough in December and January that they left their fan base feeling hopeless and gullible again.
Along with Saturday’s 26-6 loss, the Lions dropped games down the stretch to playoff teams, the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
They lost three of those games by double-digits (and would have lost all four by 11 points or more if not for a late Hail Mary touchdown against Green Bay). They surrendered more than 150 yards rushing in each of the past three weeks. And offensively, the Lions’ season-long struggles came to a head Saturday when they didn’t run a single play in the red zone.
“Started slow and ended slow and that’s going to leave a bad taste in our mouth going into the offseason,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “We weren’t able to finish strong in the months where you need to play your best football, and that’s what it really is.”
Why that is shouldn’t be much of a mystery.
The Lions don’t yet have the talent and personnel to match up with the top teams on their schedule, or in some cases the self-awareness to know it, and trying to overcompensate for their deficiencies made them extra vulnerable to mistakes.
They dropped four passes Saturday in part because their receivers tried to do too much.
“I was really thinking about scoring and thinking about my next move and just didn’t put my hands out there,” receiver Marvin Jones explained.
They committed costly personal fouls and let the game slip away as their frustration set in.
And in the end, they tried to rationalize both their place on the field Saturday and in the playoffs in general despite some unsightly performances (and an 0-5 record) against the four best teams on their schedule.
“If you look at it, shoot, if (Washington) probably would have won a couple games, they would have been in the playoffs but we beat them,” cornerback Darius Slay said. “Before the Vikings became who the Vikings was, we beat them. Who else? There’s a lot of folks. It ain’t just because they’re a playoff team (that we lost). We’ve had playoff teams we’ve beat before they became playoff teams, so kind of like we knocked some of the playoff teams off, if you look at it. But that night they were just a better team than us, the ones we lost to.”
Caldwell said the Lions have “a good, strong nucleus” in place, and they do with cornerstone players like Ansah, Slay, Matthew Stafford and Taylor Decker to build upon.
Detroit Lions’ rookie class could be nucleus of a future contender.
“There’s a lot of things we can build upon,” Caldwell said, “a lot of things we can work to get better and it’s a good nucleus of guys that understand really how to battle and fight. I think we learned some lessons this season, so hopefully that’ll help us out in the future.”
Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder slumps on the bench during Saturday’s playoff game against Seattle.