by | Nov 11, 1991 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

TAMPA, Fla. — Shhhhhh. Quiet. I don’t want to disturb the Lions. They managed to sleep through the whole game Sunday. Why wake them now?

Besides, if they were awake, we’d have to ask them a lot of nasty questions, such as: “WHAT THE HELL IS WITH YOU GUYS?” or “KNOCK KNOCK? OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR?” or “YO? LIONS? HOW DOES A SUPPOSED PLAYOFF TEAM GET FLUSHED DOWN THE SEWER BY TAMPA BAY?”

You know. Stuff like that.

No, better to let them sleep like children after a big meal, which is pretty much how they came out Sunday, fumbling on the first possession, missing tackles, giving up four straight Tampa scores and converting just one third down the entire game.

What amazed me is how they even managed to take the snap, seeing as THEIR EYES WERE CLOSED THE ENTIRE TIME!

But there I go, raising my voice, and we don’t want to do that. If the Lions woke up, they’d have to look at the game film, and then they’d want to jump back in bed and pull the covers over their heads.

You want to talk nightmare? Here are the Lions, two-thirds of the way through the season, and they still don’t have a clue as to what to do with Barry Sanders for an entire game. First, it’s give him the ball every time. Then, don’t give it to him at all. Then, run him into the teeth of the defense. Then, come out with the Jumbo package. That’s a real winner. They ought to call it the Dumbo package. Even an elephant could figure it out.

Nightmare? We could talk about the defense (30 points to Tampa?). We could talk about the bad special teams. We could talk about Erik Kramer’s two interceptions, or the Lions’ four delay-of-game penalties, which several players would blame on — and let’s everyone write this down, shall we? — “an inability to see the clock.”

Hmmm. That’s a new one.

But why bother? The point is this: There are certain humps a team must get over before it can become a winner. The Pistons could never be great until they beat the Celtics. Navy can never have a good year unless it beats Army. And the Lions will never be real contenders until they STOP LOSING TO LOUSY TEAMS LIKE TAMPA BAY!

Ooops. I think I woke them up.

New Lions always fall into same old rut

“We can’t keep doing this, being an inconsistent team,” Chris Spielman fumed, after the embarrassing 30-21 defeat. “We’re black and white, we’re night and day, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . . .”

You get the point. The Lions talk about a new attitude. Bury the past. Then they collapse to an old junkyard dog. You want a telling statistic? In the history of this rivalry, Tampa, a recent expansion team, and Detroit, one of the oldest franchises in football, are now dead even, 14 wins, 14 losses.

Nice legacy, huh?

“They were a better football team than us in every way,” Wayne Fontes said, shaking his head. “They tackled. We didn’t. They scored. We didn’t. They executed. We didn’t.”

Well, that about covers it. Thanks for sharing, Wayne. Unfortunately, the one question he didn’t answer was this: If Tampa Bay is so great, how come it came into this game with a 1-8 record? How come it lost to Green Bay two weeks ago, 27-0?

Besides, if the Lions managed to beat Dallas and Minnesota, why not Tampa? Isn’t that the mark of a good team? Beat the guys you should beat?

Wait. Does that mean the Lions aren’t a good . . .


Why is the offense so confusing?

Let’s deal with this Sanders situation, seeing as Barry was one of the few guys not in his pajamas out there Sunday. Although he had nice numbers (118 yards rushing, mostly on his own), you still get the feeling the NFL’s best running back is a mystery to his own coaching staff. One week, Fontes admits,
“We didn’t get him the ball enough.” Next week, it’s, “The defense took it away.” One week, Barry gains a zillion yards. Next week, he barely touches the ball.

Why is this so confusing? If the defense is stacked for Sanders, that should be a good thing. Receivers should be open. Weren’t the Lions one of the best passing/scoring squads in football last year? Didn’t they draft two supposedly promising receivers?

Throw the simple pass. Make the defense play honest. And if they cover the receivers, then get the ball to Sanders and let him do his magic. I’m no football genius. But obviously, neither is whoever is running the Lions’ offense.

“Do you feel they know what to do with you?” Sanders was asked.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “There’s an uncertainty as to what we’re gonna do offensively. Sometimes, with our lineups, (the defense) knows exactly what’s coming, I’ll say that.”

And when Barry bothers to say it . . .

Yes, I know Rodney Peete is out. But he’ll be out next week, too. Yes, I know the Lions still have a winning record. But it’s disappearing fast. They have no right to get lackadaisical with winning. And they can’t keep waiting for home games (they are 1-4 on the road), not if they expect to make the playoffs.

So maybe they bounce back next week. Maybe not. But I’ll tell you this: If they miss the playoffs again this year after such a promising start, they won’t just be having a nightmare.

They’ll be living one.


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