Nothing comes easy in the NFL.
Evidence of the distinct difficulty that exists within every task is scattered throughout the 2012 season for the Detroit Lions.
The Lions – a team that entered the year with promise and potential – enter the last quarter of the season with a 4-8 record.
The team’s most recent loss came to the Indianapolis Colts on a last second play, where the Colts were faced with fourth down at the Lions 14-yard line with three seconds left on the clock.
“We did a poor job,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. “We were protecting the end zone. The worst job was letting the quarterback escape. If we put the quarter on the clock, if we don’t give him a place to scramble, he never finds that guy dragging across the field.”
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was allowed to scramble and find wide receiver Donnie Avery for the score. Avery was Luck’s last read on the play, so the additional time he was afforded was vital to the score.
“He was the number five,” said Colts head coach Bruce Arians. “We had basically spread everybody across the back of the end zone and ran Donnie across the field as an outlet.”
This loss isn’t an isolated incident for the Lions. They have now dropped four consecutive games, with the last three losses by margins of four, three and two points, respectively.
“I’ve played football a long time in this league and I’ve never really been a part of anything like this before,” said linebacker Stephen Tulloch. “A team that has so much talent and ability (that) plays three quarters of football and find a way to lose in the fourth quarter. It’s tough.”
With expectations higher than they’ve been in recent memory for the Lions, the way that this season is unfolding is proving to be a tough reality to stomach.
“Disappointed,” said Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford of where the Lions are at this point in the season. “I mean obviously you show up every Sunday expecting to win and played a lot of parts of this game well enough to do that. Just for some reason… one reason or another it didn’t happen.”
With a season littered with close losses, all for seemingly differing reasons, it is difficult to pinpoint a root cause for the team’s struggles.
Schwartz insisted that the team collectively needs to do more but that the coaching staff needs to maximize the chances for their players to perform.
“It’s always my responsibility,” he said. “Put players out there and put the players in good position to handle situations and everything else. Players need to make plays but we need to put players in position to make those plays… that’s the ultimate responsibility, especially mine. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m side-stepping that at all.”
Now, with the playoffs nothing more than a pipe dream, the Lions will close out the season playing for pride and jobs.
“This is a tough league for tough people,” said Schwartz. “We’ll find out who’s tough and who’s not.”
“Tough” seemed to be a reoccurring term used by the team. As tough as the season has been, this is the NFL. Adversity is commonplace.
It is time for the Lions to identify which players can deal with the constant difficulties of the league as they attempt to right the ship.
“This is a tough league,” said Stafford. “You have to be mentally, physically, emotionally (tough). You got to be strong, you got to be square, and you got to be ready to go. The guys that can do that will last and the guys that don’t won’t last. You get tough times like this and you have to see who is ready to go.”