GLENDALE, Ariz. It was like having to give your Christmas present back, just when you were having so much fun playing with it.
Reggie Bush was all over the place in Week 1, and the Lions looked unstoppable.
He left the game in Week 2, and the Lions looked unmovable.
Over and over in the second half Sunday, Detroit’s offense ran onto the field and, too quickly, ran off, once Bush left after a helmet to the knee.
“It’s tough to get a rhythm when you’re going three-and-out,” Matthew Stafford admitted.
Rhythm? Without Bush, they had as much rhythm as a drummer in handcuffs. In the second half, the Lions’ offense never scored, never converted a third down, and ended its drives with three punts, one fumble, one blocked field goal, and 1 yard short on a fourth-and-4.
Amazingly, they were still winning when they got the ball with 5:32 left, hanging onto a two-point lead. An offense like this one, as hailed as it is, should at least be able to chew the clock, moved the chains, maybe even – heaven forbid – score some points.
“I was thinking the same thing,” Nate Burleson said. “Let’s milk the clock and THEN score and put this game away…. But we just didn’t do that.”
No they didn’t. Instead, with Bush on the sideline, they were off the field in three plays and 64 seconds. Arizona took a punt, marched downfield – aided greatly by the second interference call on Bill Bentley – and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
The Lions had one more shot.
They couldn’t get out of their own end.
I know Reggie adds a lot.
But can he really subtract that much?
The same old Lions …
“We have a lot of confidence,” coach Jim Schwartz said after the 25-21 defeat. “This was one game, and it’s a tough road game. We didn’t make enough plays to win, they did -“
Stop right there. Maybe another writer would be more patient, break this down, keep it in perspective of the second week of the season.
But I have been here too long. And chances are, so have you. So let’s call this what it is. It’s the kind of game that sets a tone, the kind of game the Lions have been losing for decades, and the kind of game that is characterizing too many Sundays in the Schwartz era, games that should have been won if not for this play – a missed field goal – or that play – a pass-interference penalty – or that play – a hands-to-the-face penalty that negated a turnover or that play – a 3-yard pass when they needed 4 – or, well, you know how it goes.
The point is, winning teams don’t make that many bad plays. Real high-flying offenses – not just ones that get a lot of hype – cannot be so easily shut down. Real awe-inspiring defensive lines – not just ones that get a lot of hype – can do better than one sack on a 33-year-old Carson Palmer. (The Rams sacked him four times the previous Sunday.)
Real winning teams don’t keep killing themselves with penalties (19 in two games, another 101 yards Sunday). Everyone wants to believe the Lions are improving. But the prickly, unvarnished truth is, if you don’t want to be thought of as a losing franchise, you have to stop losing.
Especially games you should win.
The same old Cardinals …
While the Lions paid homage to the Cardinals, calling them aggressive, tough and talented, the fact is, Arizona lost 11 of its final 12 games last year, the only victory being against – you guessed it – the Lions. Detroit lost horribly that day, a 38-10 mistake-filled debacle in the desert.
You’d have though revenge might be a motivator. But the Lions didn’t appear any more motivated than any other Sunday. Bad things happened to them, many of their own doing, and they shrugged it off and said things like “we hit the reset button.”
Sadly, for fans, that’s how it feels, too.
Bush gave the team a glow in Week 1. But his last play Sunday was a costly fumble, and he said afterward, “I wasn’t myself,” making no guarantees about Game 3. He is not the reason the Lion lost – at least he better not be – but with him the Lions looked pleasingly unfamiliar and without him they looked, well, familiar, which in Lions Nation is a four-letter word.
I know, I know. They’re 1-1. It’s early. We should cut them some slack. But when do they cut some slack for fans? Win the winnable ones. It’s not impossible. Actually, it’s what real winning teams do.