Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

After the Detroit Lions' 24-20 loss to the Chicago Bears, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. I said my piece Sunday about the controversy surrounding defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's fourth-quarter personal foul. Regardless of what you thought happened or didn't happen, Suh could have avoided the penalty by using more traditional techniques to make the tackle. Ultimately, all the penalty did is move the Bears seven yards closer to the end zone. Not a huge impact, in my mind. But I do think it was obvious the Lions were preoccupied at the start of the next play, when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler calmly found little-used tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for the game-winning touchdown. "We need to go out and make a play after that," coach Jim Schwartz said. "They had a touchdown, I think on the very next play. That's a poor response to those situations. That's happened to us a couple times this year, where we haven't responded in the right way. Some of that comes from having players make plays in those situations." Frankly, that response needs to start with Schwartz. He threw a fit on the sideline after the call and was still hot when the next play began. If the head coach isn't fully focused forward, how can he expect his players to be?

  2. The Suh play overshadowed the most positive Lions angle from this game. Aided by a smart plan from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, quarterback Drew Stanton played a great game. He was accurate, completing 66.7 percent of his passes, nearly flawless in his decision making and most notably did not commit a turnover. Linehan was smart to use Stanton out of the spread formation and to call a first-quarter draw that utilized his mobility. I don't know if the performance is enough to get him on the map of another NFL team, but it was by far the best Stanton has ever played in an NFL uniform.

  3. For those keeping track at home, the Lions have been within five points of their opponents in the fourth quarter of all 10 losses this season. That statistic opens them up to the kind of micro-questioning they haven't always been subject to in recent years. Here's one example. I've covered four Lions games this season. In two of them, they have punted while trailing by one score late in the fourth quarter, trusting their defense to get the ball back for one final drive. In both cases, their opponents ran out the rest of the game. The first instance came in Week 4 at Lambeau Field, when the Lions punted from the Green Bay Packers' 37-yard line with 6 minutes, 32 seconds remaining. Sunday, the Bears ran out the final 5:17 after the Lions punted from the Bears' 40-yard line. In both cases, the fourth-down try was nearly prohibitive -- fourth-and-9 in Green Bay and fourth-and-16 Sunday. But obviously, the Lions defense hasn't been up to that challenge.

And here is one issue I don't get:

At times Sunday, Ford Field sounded like Soldier Field. Chants of "Let's go Bears" rang out at various points in the game, which Lions fans in the stands were unable to drown out. The loudest cheer of the day, for either team, came when Devin Hester took off on a 30-yard punt return in the third quarter. Credit goes to Bears fans for snapping up available tickets and making their way to Detroit, and I don't mean this as a rip on Lions fans. No matter what the circumstances, it was surprising to hear that level of partisanship for a visiting team in an NFL stadium.