By: Dennis Fithian
I’m guessing that both Lions head coach Jim Schwartz Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan were watching the NFL playoffs Saturday night. I’m wondering if both Schwartz and Linehan were nodding their heads in agreement when the Broncos went ultra conservative late in the game eventually losing in double OT to the Ravens.
Denver with the ball at their own 47 with a 3rd and 7 at the two minute warning. Baltimore out of time outs. What do you do? Run or throw? Probably this year’s MVP, but definitely one of the top five quarterbacks of all time in NFL history is in your huddle. Of course the Broncos went with the run – then punted to set up a Ravens bomb (very Lion-esque) for the game tying score. The home team wasn’t done yet. Denver had the ball back with 30 seconds to go and two timeouts from their own 20. Take a knee? That’s what Payton Manning did. Amazing stuff.
Now, just think of two of the Lions games this year both at home to the Packers and Colts. Up three with under three minutes to go against the Packers. Lions with the ball 1st and 10 from Packers 10. Two runs and a pass that doesn’t include Calvin Johnson. Of course, Green Bay went down the field and scored the go ahead touchdown. Everybody watching knew it would happen. Then, a couple weeks later against the Colts the Lions decided, late in the game, on a 3rd and 5 to run the ball. A first down wins the game for sure for Detroit. To not include Matt Stafford or Calvin Johnson on the play and instead go for a run up the middle is playing to your special teams and defense. You know the rest by now. The Lions punt and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck drives the field and wins for the Colts with no time remaining. Jim Schwartz defends his decision days later on his weekly radio show, going back to a Jets game years earlier when he tried to throw with his third string quarterback and lost. I saw where the Lions said they lack playmakers on defense this year. I saw where the Lions fired their special team’s coordinator.
At least if you’re Denver you can go back and identify a capable defense with some playmakers out there. The Lions need to identify who and what gives them their best chance to win. If they don’t then you can almost guarantee there will be more games that go against the Lions like it went against the Broncos on that cold Saturday night in Denver.