(ALLEN PARK) - "Playoffs? Playoffs? Are you kidding me? We just need to find a way to win a game."
Those words of former Colts' head coach Jim Mora, Sr. couldn't fit a franchise better than this year's version of the Detroit Lions. The Lions offense is broken beyond repair, the defense is worn out and the coaching staff seems all out of ideas.
Any thoughts the Lions might have had about going to the playoffs went down the Metrodome drain as they lost their fourth straight despite holding a 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Detroit watched helplessly as the Vikings jump started their offense by going to a no-huddle look. What a concept!
The Vikings then embarked on a time-consuming and game changing 17-play drive, eating up 8:11 off the clock and scoring on a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daunte Culpepper to second-year receiver Nate Burleson. When the Vikings easily made the two-point conversion - again Culpepper to Burleson - any Lions fans who has watched this team over the last few years knew it was only a matter of time until the inevitable happened.
Of course, the Lions played their role flawlessly. An unnecessary roughness penalty on rookie running back Kevin Jones backed Detroit up 15 yards. Then the Lions ran just 2:17 seconds off the clock, going three-and-out giving the ball back to a charged up Vikings offense and putting a tired Detroit defense back on the field.
The Vikings knew what to do, responding with a killer 13-play drive that ran 6:30 seconds off the clock ending with a Moe Williams touchdown run giving the Vikings the 22-19 final margin of victory.
Even with five minutes left in the game, Detroit never fought back. A penalty, an incomplete pass and a sack resulted in another three-and-out. Ballgame.
The Lions offense is clearly broken beyond repairing this season.
The big Joey Harrington-to-Roy Williams plays that helped the Lions compile an early 4-2 record and raise playoff hopes seem a distant memory. Opposing defenses have needed only to add one wrinkle to the "crowd the line of scrimmage" scheme that works so well against Detroit's short passing offense; keep a safety back to shadow Williams deep.
Wasted was a breakout 19-carry, 100 yard rushing performance by rookie Kevin Jones, the first of his career. Of Detroit's five second half offensive possessions, all five lasted three minutes or less. Detroit managed just two first downs the entire second half trying to protect a lead.
Meanwhile, the Vikings were moving the football, chewing the clock and scoring touchdowns as Lions defensive coordinator Dick Jauron stood helplessly by watching. He never was able to counter the Vikings no-huddle offensive scheme, and was reduced to watching Minnesota dink and dunk their way to victory.
Next up for Detroit: Peyton Manning and the high powered Indianapolis Colts offense.
It figures to be a off-season and change and upheaval in Detroit. Lions president Matt Millen will likely resign as team president and return to the safety of the broadcast booth where everyone's opinions are always right and never challenged by the harsh realities of building an NFL franchise in the salary cap era.
Those who thought Millen finally got it right in his fourth season atop the franchise couldn't be more wrong. Another poor free agent haul and another so-so draft have Detroit headed for the NFC North basement for the fourth straight season. Third overall pick Joey Harrington's future as Detroit's starting quarterback is in doubt. Detroit's secondary needs a makeover and the offensive line appears headed for overhaul.
Those optimistic preseason predictions of 8-8 or even 7-9 look like a pipe dream in the midst of this four-game losing streak.
Playoffs? Playoffs can wait, let's just see if we can win a game, any game.
Playoffs Can Wait: Offense Broken Beyond Repair
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