Monday, September 19, 2005

As Usual, Lions Both Shock And Fail To Surprise Us

Monday Morning Quarterbacking....

If any pro football team can, at the same time, surprise you yet do what you expect them to do, it’s the Detroit Lions.

They pulled off another one of those double whammies yesterday, stinking out the joint in Chicago, 38-6. The surprise part was losing to what was supposedly a feeble Bears team. But wasn’t that also what we expected them to do? Don’t the Lions typically cancel out a "big" victory with a smelly loss, often the very next week? Brian DeCaussin put it very well at You should read his version; it’s a typical response from a Lions fan.

But this wasn’t just an "off" game. This was total destruction and a complete meltdown. Joey Harrington and the rest of the offense imploded. Special teams was a disaster. The defense let a rookie quarterback get the best of them -- shame, shame. The Lions came to Chicago and laid a big fat egg, and now they have two weeks to stew in their own juices, thanks to an early bye week. And they have me using the words egg, stew and juices in the same sentence. Try eating all those at once. You’d gag, just as the Lions did yesterday when they had a wonderful opportunity to go up 2-0 in this season and lead the NFC North all by their lonesome.
Instead, it’s another can of worms opened, and I bet talk radio had an earful last night after the game. I was away from television and watched the carnage unfold via the magic of videotape, fast forwarding thru and watching the entire game in about 30 minutes. So at least I had that to be thankful about. The Lions were putrid, and it didn’t waste my Sunday having to watch it.

What is it about this football team that causes it to take steps forward, but giant leaps backward? They are the Neil Armstrongs of the NFL, only in reverse. "This is one step for hope, one giant leap backward for ‘I-told-you-so.’"

I guess the only thing it can boil down to, really, is that the Lions, because of their utter lack of success in recent years, have no idea how to handle it in anything other than small doses. They lack the mental toughness to waltz into an enemy stadium, especially that of an inferior opponent, and bitch slap the opposition as they should. Rather, they freeze like deer in headlights, seemingly incapable of handling situations in which they should declare victory and increase their confidence.

Now, a word about coach Steve Mariucci. NFL teams start to assume the identity of their coaches after a while, and this nonsense of coming out "flat" and uninspired and then letting a little thing like an early 17-6 deficit cause apparent widespread panic is a direct reflection, I believe, of Mariucci.Fair or not, that’s my conclusion. Not one player appeared to be able to answer Hank Williams Jr.’s Monday Night Football question, "Are you ready for some football?" in the positive. As is disturbingly typical when the other guys get a small lead, the Lions stumbled all over themselves, basically freaking out before our very eyes. They handle adversity, unfortunately, as they handle success: like Lucille Ball with all those candies coming down the conveyor belt.

All of that ricochets back to the coach. For if he can’t prepare a team any better than that, then who can, or will? For all the talk of guys like Marcus Pollard wanting to take on more of a leadership role, the Lions locker room still seems strangely devoid of any true leaders. There isn’t that one guy who everyone else truly listens to -- do you think? Sure, the players will say they are "sick of losing, sick of losing", but what have they done about it lately? Yesterday’s loss was a classic example of what can happen to a team that is ill-prepared by its coaching staff and unable to have a player/leader bob to the surface to calm everyone down when a silly little thing like 17-6, Chicago shouldn’t have been that big of a deal.

The hope was that the Lions would whip the Bears and have something to build on going into the idle week. But all they succeeded in doing was building on a frightful history of staring opportunity down and blinking.

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