Lions vs. Texans: Offense Can't Slide into an Early Tryptophan Coma in Week 12

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2012

There is having your back against the wall and there is having your back against a wall.

The Detroit Lions have been trending the wrong way for two weeks in a row, and with the Houston Texans coming to town, there is a fair chance it could be three.

Given that they are already winless in their division, losing another tiebreaker (common opponents) would certainly make it even less likely they can make the playoffs.

It's no small challenge to take on the Texans, whether you're home or away. You know the Texans can be beat (at least that's what the Green Bay Packers told us), but not easily. 

The Lions have the talent, but do they have the focus?

Here's what they need to do to win.


When the Lions Are on Offense

I said this on my regular guest spot on Drive Time over at ESPN 106.5 in Toledo, but more than anything else, the Lions need to get Matt Stafford under control.

They need him to settle down, stop dancing and start being accurate. 

Stafford hasn't looked comfortable in—well all season isn't quite hyperbole. He's looked nothing like the quarterback who led his team to the playoffs and threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011. He's looked a lot like a rookie, actually, and it takes him far too long to shake off the frost early in games.

It's hard to pin down what's going on, though it's clear there is some issue mechanically. One has to assume he's been in the film room with head coach Jim Schwartz, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and QB coach Todd Downing trying to figure out just what the heck is going on, but so far nothing has changed.

The offense can no longer wait on him to get hot during a game. Against a team like the Texans who will put points on the board, even against a solid front seven like the Lions have, the Lions will fall behind too far to recover from if they start slow.

Stafford needs to find his rhythm early.

Of course, he'll be facing potential Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, so he'll need some help. With Jeff Backus potentially out and replaced by rookie Riley Reiff, the Lions may need to add an extra tight end, lineman or fullback to shore up the tackle position. 

They were already doing that before—the catch is that most often it was Reiff who was the extra body.

Along with offensive line help, getting a good run game going is vital. Mikel Leshoure struggled a bit against a susceptible Green Bay run defense, and it doesn't get easier with the Texans.

So the Lions have to be dedicated to making the ground attack work, even if it doesn't come easy. In addition to keeping the Texans from teeing off on Stafford, it will also keep the potent Houston offense off the field and give the defense a break. 

Finally, someone besides Calvin Johnson has to make a play. It could be Ryan Broyles, the rookie with a chance to steal the No. 2 receiver spot, new Lion Mike Thomas or even Brandon Pettigrew at tight end, if he can overcome his case of the dropsies.

It's all well and good that Johnson is finally getting touchdowns, but it isn't making a difference. The Lions still lost both games he scored in. So somebody else needs to start contributing and fast.


When the Lions Are on Defense

If I'm the Lions, I am most concerned with Arian Foster. This is not to say that Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels or Matt Schaub aren't dangerous—just that the Texans have mostly been focused on the ground game.

They can throw the ball if they have to, but they love to run with Foster.

It's difficult to shut down Foster completely, but it can be done, and the Lions would consider it a victory if they can keep him out of the end zone, which only three teams have done.

However, as I said, Schaub and Co. are still dangerous, so the front seven will need to get after the quarterback early and often. Nick Fairley needs to repeat his big day from last week, and Ndamukong Suh needs to get loose as well.

The key as always for this very aggressive defensive front is to avoid the tight end and fullback traps which plagued them so often early in the season. Houston's offensive line is a sharp bunch, and the coaching staff will be well prepared for the pressure the Lions will bring.

The Lions secondary is badly banged up, but played well despite that for much of the game against the Packers, and will need to do it again to make sure that any headway the defense makes with Foster isn't for naught.

It's going to be a tough job slowing—much less stopping—the Texans offense. The Lions have the talent; they need to prove they have the focus to execute as well.



I have to be honest—I don't have the Lions winning this game. It's a game they must win, a game with a ton on the line for them and it's at home.

It may be too late for the season to be salvaged, but it's not too late to salvage some pride.

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Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.


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