Another Wasted Season in Detroit
Jim Schwartz will be out of the picture as soon as the NFL season is completed, if not sooner. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will be going with him. On the defensive side, Gunthar Cunningham is likely to stay on as coordinator after helping take the unit to another level this year. It’s just unfortunate that a team with so much talent on the offensive side of the ball couldn’t take advantage of the fact that defensively, the Lions had one of their best seasons in the past two decades.
And who is to blame for that lapse offensively? You can surely start with Schwartz and Linehan. The play calling and decision making on Sunday was - like it has been the majority of their tenure with the team - far too reserved and altogether gutless. The Lions didn’t have a single play go for 20-or-more yards. 17-yard passes to Calvin Johnson and Joseph Fauria were the two longest plays on the day for Detroit while the Giants had three pass plays of 20-or-more yards.
Matthew Stafford - another one of the main culprits in the Lions’ demise - didn’t take a single shot downfield, missed a number of open receivers and threw two interceptions, the second of which was returned for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 20. Stafford has now thrown for 2 or more interceptions in 4 of his last 5 games. And in the one game he didn’t throw an interception (the snow bowl against Philadelphia), he fumbled the ball an amazing 5 times, with 1 being recovered by the Eagles.
But the most shocking number of the game was surely 4. That’s the amount of targets Calvin Johnson received throughout the entire game, zero of which coming in the second half or overtime. For some means of comparison, Fauria and Kris Durham both received 7 targets a piece. Based on that fact alone, it makes it almost impossible to think Linehan or Schwartz will have a job with the organization last season. Feel free to read over those numbers again. In a game the team needed to win in order to stay alive in the playoff hunt - at the time of the game they didn’t know they would have returned to first place with a victory - the Lions didn’t even give their star player a chance.
Where is Johnson is on the list of people to blame for the Lions’ collapse? Fingers were pointed in his direction after the loss to the Ravens on Monday night and against the Buccaneers in week 12, he dropped a pass that led to the game-clinching interception for Tampa Bay. He’s dropped a surprising number of passes this year, more than any other year, so he’s certainly not blame-free, but with a lack of support in the receiving core and such a poor display of game-planning by the coaching staff, it’s hard to throw too much blame in the direction of #81. We wouldn’t even be discussing the Lions and the playoffs in the same articles if it weren’t for him. His 1,492 receiving yards are second in the league to only Josh Gordon and his 12 touchdown receptions are tied with Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas for first amongst all wide receivers. Not too bad for a down year.