Lions Blow Last Real Chance At Avoiding Dubious History

Scott RiegerAnalyst IDecember 10, 2008

The Lions had several chances early on to get a nice lead on the Vikings but failed to do so.

On their first two possessions, they drove into the Vikings red-zone, actually inside the five-yard line, but had to settle for field goals.  Instead of being ahead 14-0, they led 6-0.

The Vikings countered with a field goal of their own to make it 6-3.

With the Lions twice driving into Vikings territory and facing crucial fourth-and-one's before halftime, one at the 30-yard line and one at the six-yard line, the Lions failed to convert on both occasions. 

What was perplexing was the play-calling on the two plays, most notably a QB sneak up the gut.  Granted, Daunte Culpepper is well known for his huge frame and ability to run with the ball, but considering that his center is under 300-pounds and lining up against massive DT's in Pat and Kevin Williams, the play didn't make much sense.

"There was definitely a wall, Kevin and Pat Williams," Culpepper said. "They made the play and we didn't make the play, it's as simple as that. That's tough, but that's football, though."

"Honestly, we had our chances," Marinelli said. "We didn't execute well enough. The two fourth downs, I wanted to go for. I felt we needed touchdowns, just with the way we've been playing on defense lately. I felt we had to get that."

Comments by Vikings DE Jared Allen would lead you to believe that the Lions were playing with reckless abandon and ready to plow any and everything in their way.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Allen said. "They came into the zone and there's nothing scarier than going to a fight with someone who has nothing to lose."

Trouble is, the Lions coaching staff are still calling the games and the plays as if they are on the cusp of a playoff berth, instead of trying to avoid becoming the first NFL franchise to go winless in a 16-game regular season. 

Sure Marinelli chose to go for those first downs instead of kicking field goals, but just choosing to go for it isn't enough.  Where was the creative play-calling? Where were the trick plays? Where is the end-around to Calvin Johnson?  Where is the fake punt?

In the fourth quarter, after a beautiful first down catch by Johnson put the Lions in great position to win the game, the Vikings challenged the catch and it was overturned.  That left the Lions in a fourth and long situation. This time, Marinelli opted for the field goal to bring the score to 17-16 with 5:44 remaining.

After the game, Marinelli tried to justify the decision.

"We played well for most of the game but when we needed to stop them, we didn't get that done. That kind of sums it up," Marinelli said.

While coach is correct in his assessment, it makes no sense to play conservative and rely on the worst defense in the league to get a stop when needed. 

At what point this season, or last season, or your entire time coaching this team, has your defense come up with a big play when needed?

What?  Oh, okay....I'm sure you'll need to think about that one for awhile.  You can get back to me on that one coach.

The players haven't done anything to warrant winning a game this season, and I've been supportive of the coaches for the most part this season, but the truth is that the coaching decisions and play-calling cost the Lions the game, not the players.

All told, the Lions lost 20-16 to fall to 0-13.  Their upcoming games are against Indianapolis, New Orleans, and an end-of-year battle in Lambeau Field against the Pack. 

I would say the Green Bay game would be an opportunity to win one for the Lions, but history says otherwise. The Lions haven't won in Lambeau in many, many years.


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