Lions Falling Back Into Old Habits

Penalties, inability to stop the run (or run the ball themselves), lead to another road defeat in loss to Buffalo. Notes and more inside ...

There isn't much left to play for this season for the Lions, but when they head to Dallas next week, there will be just one thing on the agenda - stopping their NFL-record road losing streak.

They topped their old mark on Sunday; the 14-12 loss to the previously winless Bills marking their 25th straight road loss.

"We don't talk about that in here, but we know that's all you all are going to be talking about out there," said free safety Louis Delmas. "So the only way we are going to stop that is to shut you all up and win a game."

To do that, they will have to break some longstanding road habits, all of which were on display against the Bills.

They made 11 penalties for 60 yards. Seven of those were false starts or holding calls against the offense, constantly stopping drives before they could start.

They haven't been able to run the ball all season, home or away, not even against the Bills on Sunday, and Buffalo owned the NFL's worst rushing defense. The Lions had 76 yards rushing, 2.9 per carry.

They also make too many mistakes. Quarterback Shaun Hill, playing with a cast on his surgically-repaired left forearm, threw one interception deep in Buffalo territory. Then, after executing the two-minute offense and connecting with wide receiver Calvin Johnson on a 20-yard score with 14 seconds left to cut the lead to 14-12, he threw the two-point conversion pass well over the head of tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the back of the end zone.

The defense, too, made mistakes.

Missed tackles and missed assignments. They allowed the Bills' Fred Jackson to get free for 133 yards and Buffalo's two scores. They couldn't get much pressure with the front four (one sack) and the Bills burned them several times when they blitzed, including the 16-yard touchdown reception to Jackson.

"This is tough, for a couple of reasons," Johnson said. "We didn't play our best and they were 0-and-whatever (eight) and we gave them their first win. It's just real frustrating, especially coming in here feeling we were the better team. That's definitely the way we felt. If we were going to finally get one on the road, this was the one."

Now Dallas has to be "the one."

Notebook:

  • PK Dave Rayner, filling in for injured Jason Hanson (knee), kicked field goals of 25 and 45 yards. He became the first Lion other than Hanson to attempt, let alone make, a field goal since 1990.
  • WR Calvin Johnson was one of the lone bright spots Sunday. He caught 10 passes for 128 yards. With his touchdown catch, he became the second player in team history (Cloyce Box was the other) to record 30 touchdowns in his first four seasons.
  • TRENDING: Rookie RB Jahvid Best said there were creases, yet he managed 35 yards on 17 carries. RB Kevin Smith had 19 yards on six carries. The offensive lineman talked about how they thought the run game was working early and then it closed up. Something is amiss and the guess here is speed - or lack thereof. Best with his bad toes and Smith, coming off major knee surgery, don't appear to be getting to the holes quick enough. Certainly the weather played a factor Sunday (wet and windy), but this wasn't a one-game lull. Meanwhile, the Lions' fastest back, Aaron Brown, was inactive.
  • LINEUP WATCH: DE Lawrence Jackson has been a disappointment. He has been inactive four times and hasn't been able to edge Turk McBride for any playing time. He got his chance on Sunday when starter Cliff Avril was out with a quadriceps injury. Jackson responded by leading the team with eight tackles. He also had a sack and a forced fumble.
  • LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (knee) missed his second straight game. He is the captain of the special teams. The Lions gave up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown to Leodis McKelvin, but it was nullified by a holding penalty.
  • QB Shaun Hill was clearly rusty after missing four weeks, but he rallied the team late. He finished 29 of 50 passing for 323 yards.

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