Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Lions’ narrow loss shows they’re not ready for the big stage just yet

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Driving into a Thanksgiving Day fight against the Buffalo Bills, three-game winners, the Detroit Lions were hoping for a big upset.

The Lions have always had to work very hard to beat a team that, like Buffalo, is playoff-proven and seemingly Super Bowl-ready. In the end, the Lions didn’t have enough in the tank to outlast the Bills.

The Lions played with a fantastic team for most of the game. In big games, however, it’s all about inches and small plays. Buffalo was battle tested in those moments, but the Lions weren’t.

As the young Lions continue to grow, they need to play in more games like this to get over the hump. You need to put yourself in more positions to win tight games against big teams to learn the ropes.

Coaching mistakes have subtly cost the Lions, but players need to execute too. If they’re not used to being in elite moments, they need to learn how to win. The Lions also have some depth and injury roster realities.

In this respect, this game was not a typical failure for the lions. Detroit wasn’t blown out and embarrassed. They battled a team that can go deep into the AFC playoffs to the end.

With time, the Lions hope to get there. It was a frustrating loss, but compared to where the Lions have been in the past, it was a big step forward. Fans shouldn’t feel too bad about what happened with that Thanksgiving loss as a result.

What else was learned from this costly but tough hunt? Here’s a look at some other lessons.

While people will obsess over the mistake the Lions made in third place and one with a poor pass and questionable staff decisions, the game may have been decided on the goal line in the third quarter.

D’Andre Swift had a chance to score a huge touchdown that would have given the Lions an edge. Instead, he harmlessly dropped the pass in the end zone. A few games later, the Lions bricked an easy 29-yard field goal that should have been automatic.

Swift could have made a difference with a score there, but he smelled it. It cost the Lions big bucks, and losing seven points cost the Lions first. It was an ugly throwback to when Swift had a chance to win against Chicago in 2020.

Despite the loss, the Lions still have a shot at making a difference in the NFC playoff race. Detroit doesn’t have as much margin of error as some teams with seven losses, but their schedule will make them a factor over the long run.

In Week 13, the Lions have Jacksonville. Then they play the Vikings at home, the Jets at home, the Panthers at home, and the Bears at home. This is a very mature track for the team.

Should Detroit put that level of effort forward, they will remain in the hunt and still be fighters as the season progresses.

The Bills have an elite quarterback. The Lions have a decent quarterback. Elite quarterbacks win big games, while decent quarterbacks do well but make just enough mistakes to be frustrating.

Here the Lions are with Jared Goff right now. Goff is a good placeholder for the Lions, but it’s becoming clear that he’s just a placeholder. The Lions need to find their version of Josh Allen in a player who can whip the ball deep and make winning plays with his legs.

Goff is a decent player, but you don’t win titles decently. The team needs to fill Goff with talent around him to have any chance of winning big with him. Right now they don’t look like they have the horses to do it.

Things only got better for Houston from there. The rookie broke through late in the first half and collected his first career sack from Josh Allen. The play put Buffalo out of touchdown range and forced a field goal.

Later, Houston would rejoin Allen and save a third-quarter sack for the Lions defense when they needed it most.

It was a big day for Houston and a surprise for the Lions that was very welcome considering the team didn’t have a great season to rush the passer to that point. Maybe he can change that.

15, the yardage the Bills gained in the fourth quarter from a costly penalty on defensive end Austin Bryant. The defensive end took a critical penalty when he punched Josh Allen, extending a drive from Bills.

With only three penalties that day for 32 yards, the Lions played a tight game overall. However, just under half of those yards were accumulated on this game. That was awful for the Lions in a big moment and proved why the Lions weren’t ready for prime time.

“I don’t feel like this is a step back, it’s a step forward.” -Dan Campbell. After the game, the Lions head coach didn’t feel at all that the team had made a fool of themselves. As he said, losing was frustrating but the team managed to look like a much better team overall and performed well against a great team.

Here the Lions are with Jared Goff right now. Goff is a good placeholder for the Lions, but it’s becoming clear that he’s just a placeholder. The Lions need to find their version of Josh Allen in a player who can whip the ball deep and make winning plays with his legs.

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