For the second week in a row all of the "cards" fell into place for the Lions to cement themselves as the leader in the clubhouse to grab at least the last wild card spot, if not the fifth seed. The Giants lost. The Bears lost. If the Lions could beat the Raiders they'd have a really good shot of grabbing one of those two spots in the next two weeks.
Which is why they came out and played like crap for most of three quarters. I was firmly under the impression that this was just a really young team who didn't understand how to deal with the kind of pressure applied to a team in the midst of a playoff stretch.
Matthew Stafford was missing open receivers or if he did manage to hit them, the Lions would drop them--9 dropped passes on the day...how can you win like that? The running game never got on track and the majority of the Lions offense came on a handful of big plays that simply kept them close.
The Lions weren't stopping the run either and the corners were treating Oakland receivers as if they had some sort of communicable disease. Chris Houston, playing an injured ankle, was giving a ten yard cushion...when he wasn't giving a fifteen yard cushion...and he also looked like he had decided that tackling was a job best left for other players. He had a bad, bad game.
But then, in the fourth quarter, when it all mattered most, the Lions woke up again. They've been doing this too much this season. This is a trend that will not play in the playoffs...
Look at me, talking about playoffs in December and I'm not even using a statement like, "Someday, hopefully before I die, when the Lions make the playoffs."
1. Stafford needs to start hitting more of these open receivers. Also, in watching Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, when these quarterbacks are under pressure, they pull the ball down in order to make time to throw the ball down field. That's not what Stafford does--Stafford pulls the ball down, waiting for a sack or in order to be able to better throw the ball away. I don't know if that's something that he has to learn...or something he has been taught. It's scary.
2. Until Chris Houston is 110% healthy, they need to let Alphonso Smith play. He may give up a pass every once in a while, but he also makes big plays.
3. I loved when Stafford pulled it down in order to get three yards and a first down on that critical late game fourth down play.
4. Ndamukong Suh came back for his first game and remained relatively invisible until the last play of the game. If this continues, that suspension has done a lot more damage than it's done good.
5. The Lions are still WAY too penalty prone.
6. The offensive line, and Dominic Raioloa in particular, looked pathetic against that Raiders front. Stafford was under too much constant pressure and the running game was...bad. Raiola couldn't handle Richard Seymour and that was just the beginning of the Lions line problems.
7. Calvin Johnson is a stud. Titus Young could be a star in this league. Burleson and Pettigrew and Kevin Smith need to have superglue applied to their hands.
8. If the Lions can win either of their last two games (San Diego, at Green Bay) they'll clinch a spot. If they lose out, they can still get in if, over the next two weeks, each of the following teams suffers a loss: Giants, Bears, Seahawks, and Cardinals...and the Seahawks and Cardinals play each other, the Seahawks other game is against San Francisco. The Bears play Green Bay and the Giants play the Cowboys.