Being on the wrong end of 45-27 doesn’t inspire much optimism. Especially when it’s the 17th straight loss suffered and the 24th out of 25 games. If the Lions are ever going to break out of the eight year funk they are mired in, they need to take small steps.
All those losing streaks actually have no impact on this team, no matter what all the pre and postgame shows say. This Lions team is 0-1 and they did some things that should give Lions fans hope, not just for the future, but for next week.
The Lions forced 20 turnovers last season and forced three against the Saints. The Lions scored one defensive touchdown in 2008 and already have one on the board in 2009. Yes, the Lions defense did play poorly, but they were facing one of the best offenses ever and they got very little help from the offense.
Stafford cancelled out the advantage of three turnovers forced, by committing three of his own and the Lions’ offense could not take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them by the defense. The Lions picked off Drew Brees in the endzone and the offense went three and out. The defense and special teams held the Saints to 0 points off those three turnovers, which is impressive.
However, when you turn the ball over you not only give the opponent a chance to score, but take away a chance of scoring. Instead of having three more scoring chances than the Saints, the Lions had the same number of chances as the Saints.
The special teams recovered a Reggie Bush fumble on the Saints’ 15 and Stafford gave it right back on his first career pick in the very next play. Instead of scoring a touchdown and closing the gap, the Lions came away with nothing. Luckily, the Lions were able to prevent the Saints from capitalizing on the turnover via my second area for optimism.
The Lions’ special teams came alive after three years of being a detriment. The Lions had a 43 yard punt return by Dennis Northcutt, a 87 yard kick return by Aaron Brown and a blocked field goal by Dewayne White. Hanson was perfect on his two field goal attempts as usual. The coverage units were inconsistent and Nick Harris had a rare shank, but overall the Lions’ special teams play was vastly improved.
Lost in all the doubts and pessimism is that this was Stafford’s first start, Jim Schwartz’s first game and the Lions had 10 new starters on defense and five on offense. Despite the final score the Lions were actually in this game. They started slow, but the defense came up with a turnover and a three and out that allowed them to bounce back to make it 14-10.
The special teams gave the Lions a golden opportunity to cut the score to 28-17 before the half, but Stafford blew it. The Lions came out in the second half and scored a touchdown that would have made it 28-24. The defense held New Orleans to a field goal and on the next drive; the Lions couldn’t get a touchdown despite starting on the New Orleans 15. The expectation would be a bare minimum of 17 points out of three trips inside the 15, not 10 and a turnover.
The Bengals lost on a last second fluke play, Titans lost by three in overtime, the Panthers got destroyed by the Eagles, and the Lions lost by 18 to the Saints. All that really matters Monday morning is that all of them are 0-1. It doesn’t matter how you win or lose, it’s the W’s and L’s that count.
As fans, we need to give the coaches and players a couple of games to sort things out before saying, “Same old Lions.” No team changes 70% of their starters, the front office and whole coaching staff and just magically gels and plays great. Take hope that the Lions gave themselves chances to win; now they need to take advantage of those chances.