After another tough loss – the second of the year to the Minnesota Vikings – the Lions fell to 1-6. With players facing a forlorn second half of the season – not that any of them are openly acknowledging the hopelessness ahead - the locker room ambiance was drab.
Players went through the motions of answering questions but – understandably – weren’t relishing the moment. With no victory to celebrate, the locker room was vacated relatively quickly with only a few players left behind about 30 minutes after the game’s final whistle.
Golden Tate was one of the few. He stood by an exit way with a small group of reporters, trying to articulate the team’s current state of affairs.
“I’m not a loser, I don’t take losing very well,” he explained. “What I do here is important. I think the way we practice, we deserve to win, the fan base, they deserve to win. I didn’t come here with expectations that we’re going to be in this situation by any means, I came here with expectations that I’m going to be the reason why we start winning games and it’s not happening this year.
There is no one to blame, we just got to stay with it, we got to have a great week of practice. Preparation needs to be better on our side, I think, as players these are more than just Xs and Os, we just need to make these plays come to life. You saw today, (Eric) Ebron made the Xs and Os come to life. Tipped ball in the air, Calvin (Johnson) finds a way to come down with it. Deep ball thrown to Calvin, he draws a PI or holding or even comes down with it. Theo (Riddick) gets in there and shakes through four guys. We got to make these plays come to life.”
Tate finished with only two catches for 14 yards as the Lions offense was shutout in the second half after racing to 14 points in the first quarter. A big factor was the pressure placed on quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was sacked 7 times and had to get X-rays on this left hand due to the beating he was taking.
“It was unfortunate (seeing Stafford get hit so much) and just praying that he gets up every single time he gets hit,” said Tate. “He gets up, at some point it’s going to catch up with you, it don’t catch up with you until it catch up with you. If a quarterback keeps taking hits from linebackers and ends and 300 pound guys, one of these times he’s not going to get up. I believe in Stafford but that is just the nature of the game. You’re quarterback has to stay (on his feet), if he’s on the ground, it’s tough.”
Perhaps the most concerning item regarding the pressure the Vikings were able to generate was the fact that much of it came off of free rushers.
“They made some adjustments, we didn’t respond the way we’re capable,” said Tate. “They brought some blitzes that made offensive line, tight ends, running backs, receivers uncomfortable. They made some big plays. They saw something, saw a weakness that we have and they attacked it and did it well.”
When asked if the receivers have a reponsbility to adjust to a blitz – perhaps breaking off a route or attempting to get open quicker – Tate explained it’s more a function of the game plan than real-time decision-making on his part.
“It’s more of a game plan thing, we knew that they were going to bring some blitzes and I thought we were prepared for the most part,” he said. “We clearly struggled with it later in the game and couldn’t figure it out and that’s on everyone. We got to find ways.”
The Lions have one more contest – a game against the Kansas City Chiefs in London, England – before their Week 9 bye. Given the team’s underachievement – particularly on offense – it’s possible the coaching staff doesn’t look the same when back in North America.
Tate isn’t planning on playing to save someone’s job in London, however. He just wants to win.
“I’m going out there playing just to get a win,” he said. “I hope I come back on this plane… I don’t know what’s going on upstairs in the organization but I want to win, man. That’s all I care about, that’s all I want to do is win. We’ve got to much talent to be dealing with this, it hurts… I’m not used to this and I don’t want to get used to it.”
His focus is on executing his responsibilities and he will let the front office items sort themselves out.
“That’s out of my payroll, man,” he said. “I have nothing to do with who they bring in and who they send out. I think we have a great squad, a great coaching staff and as players we have to make these plays come to life.”