Keys to the Game: Everything’s Bigger in Texas, Including Disappointment


Lions Fans Leave Houston With Disappointment Over Loss. 


The win streak for Detroit ends at three, as the Lions lose to the Texans 20-13. Throughout the game the Lions offense had issues getting going, with a stretch from the second to the late third quarter resulting in four first downs on five drives. Even when they did manage to get an extended drive together, the Lions had extreme difficulty finishing – producing just one touchdown coming in the early fourth quarter and a pair of field goals.

Overall, it was quite clear it would not be their day when the opening two offensive drives resulted in a failed fourth down conversion at Houston’s 38 yard line, and yet another missed Matt Prater field goal from inside 50 yards. The defense on the other hand, performed better then expected considering the circumstances. Missing three of their top five players, Darius Slay, Deandre Levy, and Haloti Ngata, Detroit managed to hold a Houston offense with some dangerous pieces to only three scores. Considering their performance this year, that is a half decent effort.

Outside of two early and ugly touchdown drives, the Lions defense held relatively well after their offense continually let them down with short breaks. This cannot be afforded when you know you have a talent poor unit on the defensive side of the ball. On a late push to the finish off a Matt Prater field goal with roughly three minutes remaining, the game was defined by a controversial onside kick decision giving the Texans great field position and effectively ending the game. Both teams seemed poorly prepared for the play, Houston recovered the ball and the defense let the Texans pick up an easy first down on two straight up the middle runs from Lamar Miller. That allowed Houston to wait out the clock and let time expire, capping off the disappointment of another nonsensical Lions loss.

Key #1: The Tale of Gamblin’ Jim and Cowardly Caldwell

Over the first four games of the season fans saw the usual stoic Jim Caldwell. Then over the three game win streak a new guy came into the lives of Lions fans: Gamblin’ Jim. He was fired up, ready to risk it all to win, not afraid to change things up or stir the pot, and most importantly he was fun. Gamblin’ Jim won the Lions games, and he started to gain love from the fan base more then Cowardly Caldwell ever did.

During the Houston game both those guys decided to show up. In a display of bipolar behavior not seen since Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Caldwell flipped between the same old blank stare, hollering across the field, and everything in between. He was an unstable presence on the sideline and his team played in the same manner. No two plays emphasized this thought more than not throwing the flag on the potential fumble, and the onside kick at the end.

On a questionable play he should have taken a gamble on, he got spooked and let it slide. Late in the game when they had a shot to come back, he gambled the entire game with three minutes left on the clock. If Caldwell had any hope of salvaging his job after showing a new side of himself over the win streak, that all went out the window Sunday. He will no doubt look back at the end of the year and be disappointed with the way he managed the game against the Texans.

Key #2: That Whole Middle of the Defense Thing

In case the rest of the NFL hasn’t gotten in on the worst secret in the world yet, the middle of the Lions defense is so wide open Vince Wilfork could have been running mid-routes out there picking up 10-15 yard gains. They legitimately made C.J. Fiederowicz, a glorified blocking TE look like Rob Gronkowski, trucking Josh Bynes like a school girl for easy touchdowns. This basically ended up being the primary reason the Houston offense made significant gains during the game.

At this point I’ve made claims that we need to move the personnel around, play more man than zone, bring some guys off the bench – none of it matters. This team is injured without question, but it’s devoid of defensive talent, particularly at LB, and it’s quite apparent. No stat better illustrates that this is the case, and everyone knows it, than the fact that the Lions have given up 500 yards and eight touchdowns to tight ends in eight games this season.

This is easily one of the worst marks in the league and came against some of the likes of Zach Miller, Lance Kendrick, and the ancient Vernon Davis. Maybe Teryl Austin can find a way to scheme some magic to stop tight ends from carving up the middle of the field, but without Deandre Levy this linebacking corps will continue to disappoint.

Key #3: The Case for Leading Early

Yes, everyone loves the excitement and fun of the Cardiac Cats. I get that it’s nice to pull out those come from behind wins and it helps balance out the disappointing or depressing moments. With that said though, there’s something to pulling off impressive victories or at least holding significant leads from time to time. Despite all the talent on the Lions offense, it seems as though they are always either playing from behind or urgently need a play. That does not bode well for a team that wants to be viewed as a force to reckoned with.

Eventually, if you continue to keep teams within a score or two they are going to find ways to beat you and that’s what happened against the Texans. The Lions offense had plenty of opportunities to go up and stay ahead but they just could not finish off their drives and this is the result. The more games you get early leads on, the less pressure you put on a defense that cannot take much pressure before breaking and a significantly higher likelihood you will come away with a win.

Looking Forward

With a loss here the Lions now move to 4-4 and have a potentially season defining game on the books next week against the Minnesota Vikings. Going into this game, it was clear that if Detroit wanted a realistic chance at making the playoffs they would need to take one of these two games. This is because at 4-5 they would at least need to go 5-2 over the back end of the schedule to have a chance and even then completing that difficult feat doesn’t provide any guarantees.

Well, they lost the easier of the two games and now they will have to pull out a tough divisional win on the road if they want to avoid yet another disappointing season. The one glimmer of hope out of this weekend however is that Green Bay and Minnesota both lost as well, leaving a whole pool of teams sitting on four/five wins. The Lions are still very much in the thick of things but need to capitalize on opportunities like these when they get them.

 

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About the Author

Adam Ostermeier

Adam Ostermeier is a staff writer for detroitlionspodcast.com. From Toronto, Ontario, Canada, he has been a fan of the Lions for close to a decade and has a wide range of knowledge and experience with numerous sports. Watch for him on the reddit or send him a tweet, he will answer any of your questions and try not to be smug to the best of his ability.