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.

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