Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
After Detroit’s 32-20 loss at Seattle, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
Some of coach Jim Schwartz’s lineup changes are taking on a Belichickian quality. Schwartz got his NFL start under Bill Belichick in Cleveland. And like his mentor, Schwartz isn’t afraid to match starting lineups with an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. On Sunday, that meant deactivating nose tackle Grady Jackson and jumbling his starting lineup. Schwartz started three defensive ends -- Turk McBride, Cliff Avril and Dewayne White -- and linebacker Julian Peterson as his four defensive lineman in a nickel arrangement. (At least, that’s what the NFL’s official gamebook reported.) That smaller, quicker group helped limit Seattle tailback Julius Jones to 36 yards on 16 carries. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t do much to stop quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who completed 39 of his 51 attempts.
I’m continually amazed by the revolving door not only in the Lions’ starting lineup, but on their roster overall. Three of their starters Sunday -- McBride, nickelback Kevin Hobbs and safety Ko Simpson -- joined the team after Sept. 1. I don’t know that any of them have futures with the team, but it’s clear that the Lions will continue to give real-time tryouts as they try to upgrade their talent following the Matt Millen era.
Losing a 17-0 first-quarter lead was only the latest chapter in a season’s worth of missed opportunities. “Sustaining” should be among the mantras of their offseason. I don’t think the Lions are consciously relaxing after taking leads. If anything, it represents an understandably shallow pool of options in Schwartz’s first season. NFL games are chess matches, and the Lions don’t have enough countermoves yet. Sunday, they accomplished their goal of stopping the Seahawks’ running game but couldn’t do much to limit Hasselbeck.
And here is one question I’m still asking:
It’s clear quarterback Matthew Stafford’s right knee isn’t fully healed from an Oct. 4 injury. But the question is this: Is Stafford healthy enough to play effectively? I don’t see him struggling to move or putting himself in an otherwise compromising situation. So I don’t think the Lions are risking further injury by playing him. But some of the ducks he threw Sunday are indicative of a quarterback who doesn’t feel totally confident while stepping into a throw or has lost some leg strength or upset his mechanics while recovering.