Third and one: Lions

After Detroit’s 48-3 loss at Baltimore, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:

  1. I’m quite interested to see what comes of coach Jim Schwartz’s threat to make changes after this debacle. Schwartz told reporters it was time to “make a stand” and the team’s performance was “unacceptable.” But what options does he have? The Lions already were starting their backup quarterback because of Matthew Stafford's shoulder injury. Schwartz has routinely shaken up the starting lineup this season, and his options are limited with 15 players on injured reserve. The next level is pretty dramatic: Releasing underperformers and/or firing coaches. Could one of both of those happen this week? That would certainly be a step toward the accountability Schwartz is looking for.

  2. Tailback Kevin Smith has a “significant” knee injury and will miss the rest of the season. But 2009 should be the least of the Lions’ concerns. If it’s a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Smith will join tight end Brandon Pettigrew as a key Lions player who will have to exceed normal rehabilitation timetables to be ready for training camp next summer. Smith finished the season with 747 yards on 217 carries, a 3.4-yard average per carry. That middling performance, combined with the injury, probably means the Lions should add “starting tailback” to their offseason list of needs.

  3. Sunday’s game could have been worse. Don’t forget that Ravens running back Ray Rice fumbled the ball out of the end zone in the first quarter. Had Baltimore scored and the rest of the game continued in the same fashion, it would have been the largest margin of defeat in Lions history. As it was, the 45-point loss ranked third in Detroit’s inglorious record book.

And here is one question I’m still asking:

Have the Lions improved one iota from last season’s 0-16 team? The records show they have. The Lions are 2-11 at this point as opposed to the 0-13 mark they had last year at this time. But we all know it took some bizarre plays for the Lions to go winless in 2008; Dan Orlovsky's safety in the Metrodome comes to mind. Last year’s team had injury problems as well. Stafford’s competitiveness gives the Lions something to look forward to, and hope is always good. Otherwise, however, I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue this team has made many tangible strides.