By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – Hamstrung by injuries to a number of players and troubled by protection issues, the Detroit Lions offense scored just once Sunday as the team lost, 17-14, to the Buffalo Bills.

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The offense, predicted before the season to be prolific, did not reach the end zone in the final three quarters of the game.

Stafford completed 18 of 31 passes, had to scramble frequently, threw an interception and took six sacks. Missed field goals compounded Detroit’s inability to score, and a game the Lions once led by two touchdowns slipped away.

“We felt like we were driving the ball, we felt like we were hitting some holes in the run game, and it’s unfortunate we just didn’t close it out,” left guard Rob Sims said. “Looking at nobody else but us up front right now. It’s our job to take care of Matt, and we did not.”

Stafford took a high number of hits against the New York Jets, too. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said during the week that those could be attributed to several factors, and Caldwell echoed that sentiment Sunday.

“Sacks, sometimes it’s due to coverage and nobody getting open, obviously if the timing is off a little bit,” Caldwell said. “It also has to do with obviously the protection phase of it. It may not only be the offensive line – could be tight ends, could be backs, and then it also is the timing of the quarterback, too, in terms of getting the ball out as well. We have to look at all of those things, and I’m sure we’ll be able to look at it and narrow it down and get back to where we think we should be in that area.”

The Lions started the game missing a pair of running backs, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, as well as tight end Joseph Fauria. Superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson played, but he served as a decoy more than anything, targeted just once. On the one catch he did make, Johnson got hit and was slow to get up. He walked off the field but would soon leave for the locker room. He never returned.

Running back Reggie Bush also got hurt during the game, leaving the Lions with one running back, George Winn, who was picked up by Detroit recently after originally getting cut.

As far as whether the absences of Bell, Riddick, Fauria and Bush hurt the Lions in terms of the battle to keep Stafford upright, Sims took the fifth.

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“I don’t want to make excuses,” Sims said. “I felt that with what we had, the five guys that we had go into the game, we should have been able to get it done against that group. They’re a very, very, very talented group, and they played like it today.”

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 05: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions is sacked by Jerry Hughes #55 of the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter at Ford Field on October 05, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. the Buffalo Bills win 17-14. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 05: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions is sacked by Jerry Hughes #55 of the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter at Ford Field on October 05, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. the Buffalo Bills win 17-14. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Whether injuries factored into why the Lions struggled to protect Stafford or not, they certainly made a difference overall. Caldwell almost never speaks in detail about injuries, so though he did give updates about Johnson and Bush after the game, his remarks were predictably vague.

“I won’t be certain if it’s a long-term issue, but [Johnson] did take a pretty good whack right there on the side of his leg, and they looked at it, but they’ll evaluate him further probably tomorrow and get a good look at him,” Caldwell said. “Reggie was probably another name you’ll ask about because he obviously came out of the game, and we’ll also see what’s happening with him as well.”

Sunday’s loss had an unbelievable – and thus Lions-esque – feel to it. While obviously unhappy with the outcome, Caldwell put the game in perspective.

“All this tells us, in terms of this loss, is the fact that we won’t go 15-1,” Caldwell said. “No other guarantees beyond that.”

As the Lions locker room quickly cleared after the game, Sims sat by his locker, clearly disappointed, but like the coach, the veteran lineman said the team just has to take the defeat in stride.

“We’re still level,” Sims said. “You play long enough, you’re going to have one of these games. That’s just the NFL. Those guys are good, too, and some days you’re just off, and we just had one of those games … It’s big, it’s huge, but go back to work on Wednesday. That’s all we can really do.”

 

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