DETROIT -- After two consecutive losses, the once blissful atmosphere amongst Lions fans has transformed into panic and alarm.
After a 5-0 start, expectations quickly escalated and a solid 5-2 record is considered a disappointment.
There are issues that need to be addressed, no doubt, but the issues are correctable.
The talent that once gleamed from this roster has not dulled and the coaching staff hasn’t suddenly become incompetent.
Rather, the Lions have failed to execute against two good football teams, falling a few plays short.
“It’s a good football team,” said head coach Jim Schwartz after Sunday's 23-16 loss to Atlanta. “The Atlanta Falcons, we have to give credit to them. They were 13-3 last year and they’re going to be a good team again this year.”
Schwartz’s praise of the Falcons stopped there as he recognizes that there are errors within his team that need to be addressed.
The most glaring of which are the plays the Lions failed to make.
“When we finish (watching the film) tomorrow, we’ll talk about missed opportunities,” said Schwartz. “Missed opportunities in the kicking game, missed opportunities on defense and particularly missed opportunities on offense… We had opportunities in this game that we didn’t make and we got to get back to making those plays.”
One play that stands out on offense was a missed opportunity to Calvin Johnson in single coverage. Matthew Stafford threw a deep pass -- after a play action fake -- to Johnson, who had the beat cornerback Brent Grimes, but an under-thrown pass by Stafford allowed Grimes to get back into the play and tip the ball away.
“I just under threw it to him,” said Stafford. “I just didn’t throw a good enough pass.”
Another missed opportunity was a throw in the end zone from Stafford to Johnson. Johnson cut inside and found a seam between two defenders, Stafford threw behind him and he couldn’t make the catch.
“We missed opportunities,” said Stafford. “Chances are in the red zone and I missed Calvin on a touchdown pass. There were some other opportunities in the game where we just didn’t connect. That’s on us as a team. We’ve got to be better and we’ve got to go back to work and hopefully be better next week.”
Of course, the loss cannot fall only on the shoulders of the offense. A fumble lost by Stefan Logan led to a costly touchdown in the first quarter and three big plays allowed by the defense on one drive (30 yards, 19 yards and 18 yards) enabled the Falcons to score a late touchdown before halftime.
Throw in some other big-runs against the defense, several costly penalties on both sides of the ball and a couple big returns allowed by the specials team unit and there is ample room to place the blame for the loss.
“Everybody has to take a part of this and put it on their shoulders,” said Johnson. “After we watch film tomorrow, we have to put it to rest. Everybody plays a part in this loss.”
And that’s exactly what will happen.
The Lions will examine the film, will work on their mistakes and put the loss behind them.
These two losses do not take away from the five wins the team had to start the season and they do not cap the potential this team has.
“We’re going to get it together,” said defensive tackle Corey Williams. “It’s not something we can’t fix. We just all have to buy in and stick together and step up. We don’t know how good we could be if we do put together four quarters… we started off smoking, we are still the same team that we were at the start of the season.”
There is no reason for Lions fans to hang their heads. Simply look up and you’ll see that the sky is not falling.