They’re all window dressing, the road losing streak against the Green Bay Packers that has stretched to 22 games, or the five straight losses that have nailed the Lions to the basement of the NFC North this year.
It’s football that is beating them – the good plays that other teams have made against them, and the good plays the Lions haven’t made in those same win-or-lose situations.
They faced another of those situations Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers and came up frustratingly empty-handed. When the game was there to be won or lost, they had no answer for a Packers team that leaned on its weakness – running the football – to hammer the ball through the heart of the Lions’ defense to seal a 27-20 victory.
For the record, and the standings, the Packers took over first place in the NFC North with a 9-4 record.
And the Lions guaranteed a last-place finish in the North with a 4-9 record. They cannot finish ahead of the Minnesota Vikings, who are third in the division at 7-6 after an unexpected 21-14 win over the faltering Bears.
There were weird plays, good plays and bad plays on both sides that left the Packers and Lions tied at 17-all when Green Bay got the ball at its 41-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. A missed field-goal attempt from 51 yards out, into a tricky wind, by
On a seven-play, 59-yard drive, the Packers put the ball in the hands of Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s best quarterback – but only to hand off seven times to a trio of running backs who are hardly household names.
Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant took turns carrying the ball. Seven carries gained all 59 yards – all of them hard-nosed football that would have made Vince Lombardi and the teams of his dynasty proud on a chilly, snowy night.
Seven plays, and the Lions didn’t stop any of them.
On the seventh play, Harris ran through a hole on the right side and ran untouched for the final 14 yards to break the tie and give the Packers a 24-17 lead with 10:45 left in the game.
An exchange of field goals in the fourth quarter accounted for the final margin.
Take away everything else – a 14-0 start by the Lions, a fumble by
The Packers made them, with nondescript backs running behind a makeshift offensive line – and hammering holes in a front four that is supposed to be the heart of the Lions’ defense.
“They just ran the ball down our throat,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after the game.
No excuses were asked for, and none were given.
There was no explanation for the strange fumble by Stafford that gave the Packers a gift touchdown in the second quarter. He dropped back to pass, started his throwing motion, and the ball slipped backwards out of his hands.
Packers lineman Michael Daniels picked up the ball and ran 43 yards for a touchdown to cut the Lions’ lead to 14-10 in the second quarter.
The Lions were in Packers territory and driving to a score to extend a 14-3 lead. Instead of extending, the lead contracted – and so did the Lions.
They were never the same team. That quickly, one play changed the momentum of the game, even though more than six minutes remained in the first half – plenty of time to regroup.
There are reasons teams like the Packers win consistently, and why the Lions are still looking for the formula.
On this night, when they looked like streak-busters for a good portion of the game, they ended up being heart-breakers. They broke their own hearts, with 22 straight road losses to the Packers, and a losing streak this season that stands at five games.
“This is as disappointing as it gets,” said Hanson, the only player who has been a Lion since the 22-game streak began in 1992. “I don’t know what to say. It’s an ugly statistic.
“We’ve got to get rid of it.”
But it didn’t happen on Sunday night – and 21 other days or nights before it.
Once again, the Lions got beat at football.