by | Oct 16, 1995 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

GREEN BAY, Wis. — After watching our beloved football team spend another day falling further behind the Tampa Bay Bucs, I am moved to make many points. One concerns the punting, but as soon as I think about that, my stomach begins to growl and I need to get some Maalox. Another concerns the defense, which Sunday was summed up by Chris Spielman, who said, “We made mistakes, what do you want me to say?” and by Robert Porcher, who said, “We made mistakes, I can’t explain it,” and by Tracy Scroggins, who said, “We made too many mistakes, I don’t know why.”

Thank you for that insight.

My stomach is churning again.

I will get back to those subjects, as soon as my gastric acids stop boiling. The cause for my anxiety, naturally, is the biggest problem of all with these Wayne Fontes Lions: They continue to play way over their heads when facing world champions like San Francisco and Dallas, then step on their tails when facing old division foes. I don’t get it. Don’t the Lions play Green Bay every other week?

Maybe that’s the problem.

“To me, playing the Packers is harder than playing San Francisco, because they know everything about us and we know everything about them,” said Herman Moore, after Green Bay pained Detroit again, 30-21. “They know what I’m gonna do, what Barry’s gonna do. We know what Brett Favre’s gonna do. It’s the same guys on both sides. We don’t even go over scouting reports during the week.”

Wait. You what?

“We glance at them. But only to see if they have anyone new.”

Well. Maybe they should glance again. Because the last two years, while the Lions bragged about beating big shots, it’s these glamour-less men in green who have sent them home for the season.

Doesn’t revenge mean anything anymore? They did the least when it meant the most

OK. My stomach has subsided enough to try a subject. Let’s bring up punting. Bringing it up would be good. As in, bringing the ball up in the air? As in, some hang time? Twice in the second period, when the Lions most needed to deflate the Packers’ offense, they were deflated instead by Mark Royals’ kicks, which seemed, well, deflated. He flubbed one 29 yards. The Packers drove down and scored. He muffed the next one 16 yards. The Packers drove down and scored. Neither time was he rushed. Neither time was he pressured. It’s punting, for pete’s sake! Punting! Foot meets ball, ball goes up, ball spins around —

Hold it, I’m getting nauseated again.

Let’s go to the defense, which made the punting look like Picasso. Yes, it’s true, the defense was better in the second half. That’s like saying the meal gave us food poisoning, but the dessert was good.

“We didn’t stop them,” Fontes moaned. No kidding. In the first half alone, the Lions surrendered 269 yards and 20 points. They were the highway, and the Packers were the truck. They were out of place and out of sync. Brett Favre did his familiar pump fake and spin move, and the Lions were befuddled, as if they’d never seen it before. Didn’t Moore say they knew each other so well?

And then, the crusher. In the fourth quarter, with the offense finally clicking and the score getting tight, the Lions’ defense had Green Bay choking, a third-and-13. And what did they do? They allowed Favre to heave a pass down the middle to wide receiver and non-household name Charles Jordan, who beat Sean Vanhorse for a 35-yard gain.

“We got beat on the back end,” Spielman said.

Don’t give us any ideas. The Lions’ secondary doesn’t deserve to be called a secondary. It should be called a thirdary. Or a fourthary. Or a fifth —

Hold it. I’m getting queasy again. Why was it no-go to the go-to guy?

Let me move to another subject. I have said it before, but it hasn’t gotten through, so I’ll say it again:

Barry Sanders is the star of this team.

It is not Brett Perriman. It is not Moore — although both are terrific players. And it is not Scott Mitchell. This is a fact. In sports, you have your supporting cast, your top players, and your go-to guy. Barry Sanders has to be the go-to guy, or he is being wasted.

Now. Keeping that in mind, consider what the Lions did in the fourth quarter Sunday. With eight minutes left, they got the ball on a hot streak, trailing by nine. Eight minutes left. On their previous possession, Sanders had gained 37 yards in three carries. The Packers’ defense was softened. It was not cheating on him. Barry was hot. What did the Lions do?

They had Scott Mitchell throw on seven of the next eight plays. And the Lions turned the ball over on downs, and that was pretty much the game.

Now here is my point. If you want Scott Mitchell to be The Man of this team, fine. But it’s a mistake. If he could be counted on like Troy Aikman, I’d say no problem. But as of right now, Mitchell is a developing quarterback, sometimes hot, sometimes cold. He is no sure thing to win a game down the stretch — especially in windy conditions.

If I have Barry Sanders in my backfield, and he’s doing well, I’ll put my money on him, the same way Dallas puts its money on Emmitt Smith. And don’t tell me about time on the clock, because there was plenty of time to run the ball and still have two possessions and win.

Of course, this is not a new problem. Neither are the others.

But then, neither is losing to Green Bay.

My stomach hurts.


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