Many considered Detroit's Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Green Bay Packers an opportunity to measure an up-and-coming team against an already-proven champion.
If the game was a measuring stick, the final score doesn’t indicate a positive reading, with the Lions falling 27-15.
However, the final score can be deceiving.
The Lions produced 409 yards on offense while holding the Packers to their third-lowest point total of the season (27).
Despite their success moving the ball and keeping the Packers offensive output at a manageable number, the Lions were again unable to overcome their own self-induced adversity.
“If we don’t beat ourselves today, the game is a lot closer than it winds up,” said wide receiver Rashied Davis. “I believe we win if we don’t beat ourselves.”
On offense, the Lions committed costly penalties, while in Green Bay territory, resulting in stalls on their first three offensive series. They missed a field goal and had three turnovers over their next four drives.
At that point, the Packers had built a 24-0 lead, with 17 of their points coming off of Lions turnovers.
“When you give a good team like that the ball on our side of the field, what can you expect,” asked wide receiver Calvin Johnson. “…Penalties, turnovers and those things, when you got those on your stat sheet, you don’t win a lot of games.”
The Lions also had some costly mistakes on defense, the most notable of which was an unnecessary-roughness penalty on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for – what appeared to be – stomping on Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith after the Packers had failed to convert on a third-and-goal play.
The penalty not only gave the Packers a fresh set of downs, resulting in a touchdown, it disqualified Suh from the game, forcing one of the team’s most valuable players to leave the contest in the third quarter. Given the losses of Louis Delmas and Chris Houston to injury earlier in the game, the team was already facing an uphill battle.
Although the mistake was costly, Suh believes his only error was giving the officials an opportunity to call a penalty.
“First and foremost I’m going to apologize to my teammates, my coaches and my true fans for allowing the refs to have an opportunity to take me out of this game,” said Suh. “what I did was remove myself from the situation in the best way I felt and me being held down in the situation that I was in and for that, my intentions were not to kick anybody, as I did not, removing myself.”
Regardless of the circumstance or situation, the Lions failed to convert on their own opportunities while giving the opponent too many.
The Lions may have squandered an opportunity for a victory but, at the very least, did prove that they can be a quality team.
“You have a team like this that is on the rise,” said Packers cornerback Charles Woodson. “A team that gave us a loss last year late in the season and they were making some strides to become a good team and they put together a great effort this year so far.”
Tight end Jermichael Finley doesn’t believe the loss will setback the Lions.
“I think it put a fire in them actually,” said Finley. “I think it is going to put some fire in them. They didn’t lose to a sorry team. I think they will bounce back from it. They are a good team.”
The respect of their opponents is of no consolation to the Lions after a loss. But, as others observe, it should remain clear that the Lions are a team currently ascending the ranks of the NFL – the operative word being “ascending." Detroit, for their respective highlights and lowlights, clearly remain a work-in-progress.
They simply just aren’t there yet.
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