I can’t honestly say that I have ever been more frustrated watching a sporting event than I was watching the second half of the Lions-Vikings game on Sunday.
The Lions controlled the first half of the game, forcing four turnovers and scoring 31 points. They built a 17 point lead at halftime and looked comfortably in control of the game. The Vikings even benched quarterback Christian Ponder after committing his fourth turnover of the game, a bad interception that was caught by Lions corner Eric Wright.
No Ponder, no Vikings, right? Wrong. Second year quarterback Joe Webb came in and promptly busted a 65 yard touchdown run that should have been stopped in the backfield, but the Lions failed to make the tackle, something that was a trend in this game.
Webb led the Vikings all the way back to within six points of Detroit, and with three and a half minutes left, got the ball back with a chance to take the lead. Minnesota drove all the way down to the one yard line before Webb rolled left and coughed up the football, handing the Lions the 34-28 win on a silver platter.
A win is a win, and at 8-5, the Lions remain in the playoff hunt. However, this win was one that was flat out lucky from any angle. With a first and goal from the Lions’ one, the Vikings were staring their biggest comeback since 1985 right in the face. But somehow they failed, and the Lions came out with one of their ugliest wins in recent memory.
It is a real shame that the Lions can’t give their fans a full 60 minutes of good football because I have seen a lot of things I really like out of this team this year. The first half was a decent example of this- the Lions moved it well on offense, scored on defense, and forced turnovers. However, in the second half, the offense stalled, failing to score a touchdown. Quarterback Matthew Stafford fell back into his old ways, failing to step up in the pocket and making off target, off balance throws. The defense also fell apart, allowing Webb and backup running back Toby Gerhart to run rampant. Webb came in the game midway through the third quarter and ran for 109 yards against the Lions defense.
Many people will point to the turnovers, saying that the Lions played a wonderful defensive game this week, but I don’t believe it for a minute. The turnovers kept the Lions in the game, no doubt, but take a look at them and see for yourself that they weren’t all caused by good defense, but rather good luck. Lorenzo Booker just ab
out gift wrapped the ball for the Lions, failing to receive the handoff properly and dropping the football right into Sammie Hill’s lap.
The real story is right here: the Vikings racked up 425 yards of offense, ran 83 plays from scrimmage (compared to just 55 for the Lions), and punted just twice. Basically, when Minnesota wasn’t giving away the football, they were driving it down the field.
I certainly hope that the return of Louis Delmas and Chris Houston will jump start this defense, because I did not like anything I saw in the second half today. Tackling was a mess, there was little to no pass rush, and playcalling was questionable at best. Once the Vikings got the ball back with just over 3:30 to play, Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham went into the prevent-the-win defense, rushing three and allowing Webb to move the Vikings effectively down the field. I honestly can’t say I remember the Lions bringing any sort of pressure in the fourth quarter which is inexcusable when the opposing quarterback has made three career starts.
Cunningham should be on the hot seat right now in Detroit, and I don’t think Jim Schwartz is too far behind him. Schwartz was once again yelling at officials after linebacker Stephen Tulloch hit Ponder to the turf after Ponder’s last interception. The hit was a dirty one in my mind, as Ponder was a good 25 yards away from the play and in no position to make the tackle. On top of that, Tulloch hit him from behind, but none of that seemed to bother Schwartz who spent more time arguing with the officials than he did coaching his players.
His team continues to play undisciplined football, and despite saying that he will bench any player who commits a personal foul, his team committed a personal foul to go with ten penalties for 76 yards.
The Lions still have a shot at the playoffs, but much needs to be cleaned up if the team wants to beat Oakland next week.