By Michael Ferro
After their disappointing division title loss to Green Bay last week, the Detroit Lions knew their path to the Super Bowl had gotten that much tougher. They would need to travel to a hot Seattle team and take down an opponent away from home (not an easy task this season for Detroit). In a year that saw the Chicago Cubs win a World Series, some Lions fans were hoping that the curse of Bobby Layne was finally over…they were very wrong.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was outmatched not only by a stifling Seahawks defense, but also by the bumbling of his own teammates. There were also a number of lousy calls (and missed calls) made by officials throughout the match up, but in the end, it was the “same ol’ Lions” that reared their ugly heads in the crushing 26-6 defeat. The Lions’ dismal playoff losing streak continues.
From the get go, the Lions looked confused on the field. A number of dropped passes and blown plays displayed a lack of preparation and ability on the part of Detroit. Matthew Stafford was well-protected throughout the game by a inexperienced offensive line, which was encouraging, but the QB’s core of receivers missed the mark a number of times.
In fact, once again, one of the most dynamic elements of the Lions’ offense turned out to be the surprising talent of young running back Zach Zenner. Not only was Zenner able to find (somewhat) limited success on the ground (or at least as much as Detroit was bound to find), but he also proved to be a valuable asset in the short passing game and even made key blocks for Stafford in other plays. Alas, the failures of the offense as a whole quickly stunted Detroit, proving that the Lions were outmatched from the start, leaving the squad scoreless.
Despite a few flashes of brilliance from former breakout star Ziggy Ansah, there were still plenty of missed targets by the Lions’ defense. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson didn’t even need to make much use of his own ground game in order to take a strong lead—his favorite wide receiver, Doug Baldwin, was able to take care of that for him with 11 catches for 104 yards and one touchdown.
Also making headlines were the questionable catches of Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson, who despite making some incredible grabs, also clearly committed a blatant face masking penalty on two accounts that went uncalled. Regardless, Detroit made a number of inexcusable errors, including plenty of missed tackles, that led them to be their own worst enemy on the field against a more dominant Seattle offense.
Special Teams: A
Despite a few rare struggles this season, kicker Matt Prater proved that he might be one of the most reliable and consistent players on the Lions. Prater made two consecutive 50+ yard field goals—one for 51 and one for 53—that would amount to the only points scored by Detroit the entire game. Sadly, kick returner Andre Roberts failed to find any success in the return game.
Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell’s job is safe, as he’s already been announced as returning for next season, but that does not excuse the obviously poor planning that took place before this game. The Detroit Lions were never really in this game and their inexperience in the playoffs shows each and every time they find themselves there. Curse or no curse, the responsibility relies heavily upon Caldwell to help his team overcome the shadow of failure to find success in big games.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin also share much of the blame, as once again they failed to find any of the magic that helped propel the Lions to the playoffs in the first place. For the last few games of the season, be it because of much tougher opponents, a boogeyman curse, or Stafford’s injured throwing hand, both coordinators dropped the ball.