Lions Become The Hunted In NFC North
After another come from behind 16-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, the Detroit Lions have a golden opportunity to learn who they really are. With the Lions (10-4) win, coupled with a Green Bay Packers (10-4) loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Lions now hold the tiebreaker in the NFC North standings with two games to play. Detroit's defense has been the catalyst propelling this team to a franchise best 7-1 record at Ford Field this season, while the offense has sputtered in recent weeks.
But, now it's time for this team to become a complete machine. The offensive production needs to improve, and it begins, in my opinion, with two steps: find a consistent running game and cut down the penalties. There have been some offensive line injuries for the Lions to overcome, but Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been put into a situation of frequent, high pressure in the pocket, due to the fact that Detroit has failed to get good yardage in early downs from the run attack. Getting Reggie Bush fully healthy can go along in re-establishing the one-two punch of Bush and Joique Bell. Golden Tate has been outstanding this season as a receiving option that allows Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi to try and extend the run game with a short pass attack. But, Stafford and Calvin Johnson haven't been able to establish much of a rhythm together since Johnson was hampered with an ankle injury earlier this season. But, getting these components all together starts up front with good protection in pass blocking, set up by a disciplined approach to run blocking that isn't stalled by the plethora of false start and holding penalties that seems to have plagued this team once again. Oh, yeah, and a little contribution from the Tight Ends couldn't hurt matters...
The road gets tough now, though. You can say the playoffs begin right now for the Lions. In the standings, Detroit and Green Bay have identical records with the Lions' earlier victory over the Packers giving them the current tiebreaker. While the Lions begin their end-of-season tour of Lake Michigan in Chicago this week, Green Bay heads to the warmth of Florida for a date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Win or lose this week, for either Detroit or Green Bay, is guaranteed to make their season finale showdown in Lambeau Field a must-win for one, or both.
The best part is, the Detroit defense has been very consistent and key to victories while the offense has struggled. Sunday's win over Minnesota was a perfect example. Two second quarter interceptions sparked the offense for 10 points, with a short field both times, just before the half. The ability of the defensive front for Detroit to create havoc by pressure was key in the second half, along with a huge play from special teams on a blocked field goal attempt. This pressure may be the biggest weapon this team has in their arsenal going in to cold environments against the Bears and Packers.
Can the roar be restored in Detroit? It's going to be an exciting two weeks for Lions fans...BELIEVE!!!