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Third and one: Lions

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

After Detroit’s 27-13 loss to Minnesota, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:

  1. In general terms, I like the fire of right tackle Gosder Cherilus. I’m just not sure he has the ideal on-field personality for an offensive lineman. It was fun to watch his feud with the Vikings defense escalate Sunday, and I don’t think it was an accident that he grabbed defensive end Jared Allen by the collar to pull him out of a pile. It was also entertaining to watch Cherilus celebrate after Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams earned a 15-yard penalty for shoving him to the ground. But there is a reason why most fiery big men are defensive linemen, and why most quiet big men play on the offensive side. Emotional offensive linemen lose their technique and make mistakes that hurt the team. Emotional defensive linemen channel it to get away from would-be blockers, or at least the good ones do. Cherilus could use a little less fire and a little more stoicism.

  2. I love the way offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is looking for ways to get the ball to receiver Calvin Johnson. Linehan employed a reverse early in the game and later motioned Johnson into an I-formation in the backfield. Johnson took a pitch and ran around left end for a first down. With quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing interceptions at a rate of one for every 13.4 throws, it’s a good idea to find simpler ways to get Johnson the ball.

  3. I have no idea what left tackle Jeff Backus was doing for any part of the first play of the second half. He lined up across from Allen -- with no tight end help -- but never took a step to block Allen at the snap. Allen sacked Stafford untouched, forcing a fumble. Backus was facing the play at the time but made no move to recover the fumble, acting as if he thought the play was dead. (Finally, tight end Brandon Pettigrew fell on the ball.) Did Backus hear a whistle? Did he think that tailback Kevin Smith was going to block Allen? All the way around, a bizarre and crucial play for the Lions.

And here is one question I’m still asking:

Why did the Lions get away from running the ball in the second half? They ran well and often in the first half, keeping the Vikings’ normally stout run defense off-balance. But they called passes on two of the first three plays in the third quarter, a decision that coincided with a big swing in momentum. As crazy as it sounds, you would have thought the Lions would keep running the ball right at the Vikings as long as they kept the lead.