Their defense has caught up with their offense. And that is not a good sign for the Detroit Lions.
When they adjourned after their season-opening 9-6 loss to Seattle a week earlier, the thought was that the Lions could begin making inroads in the NFC North if their offense rectified a few minor flaws and began playing as well as their defense.
Instead, they went the other way. The offense continued to struggle with foolish, untimely penalties and the defense took a major step backward, leaving the Lions with significant questions and a load of doubts after a humbling 34-7 loss to the Chicago Bears.
If they're not careful, they could find themselves mired in a repeat of one of those demoralizing starts from which there is no escape -- 1-6 in 2003, 1-4 in 2002 or -- God forbid -- the 0-12 if 2001.
No one is predicting that yet, but no one was expecting the Lions to play as poorly as they have played in the first two games under first-year coach Rod Marinelli and his two high-profile coordinators -- Mike Martz on the offense and Donnie Henderson on the defense.
The idea behind Marinelli's "pound the rock" approach was that the Lions would become tougher and more disciplined, but they have yet to show the discipline portion of that equation. They had seven penalties for 61 yards in the opener against Seattle and jumped to 14 for 104 in the Chicago game, including three false starts in the first half.
"We moved the ball against this (Chicago) defense," said wide receiver Roy Williams. "Then we get down there, we cross the 50 and the next thing you know we're back across (our own) 40.
"You can't do that. You'll never win a game if you do that. We're going the wrong way."
Quarterback Jon Kitna was asked if there is a learning curve involved in the Lions' early-season difficulties.
"It's not the learning curve within the system," he said. "It's the learning curve in terms of learning how to win and understanding the importance of every single play. You just don't have enough plays to take 10 plays a game and go backwards without it causing you to go backwards. You just can't have it, not in this game. You don't have enough plays."
The defense, which held defending NFC champion Seattle without a touchdown in the season opener, was shredded by Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, who lit them up for 20 completions in 27 attempts for 289 yards and four touchdowns. Grossman had a passer rating of 148.0.
When linebacker Boss Bailey intercepted Grossman with a 28-yard return for a touchdown, it looked like the Lions might have some momentum to get them back in the game. But the play was nullified by a penalty away from the play -- illegal use of the hands by Jamar Fletcher -- and, instead of pulling to within 10 points at 24-14, the Bears got the ball back and shortly thereafter took a 31-7 lead.
Bailey said he didn't even know what the penalty was or who it was on, but added: "That definitely would have been a momentum shift for us and they end up taking the drive down and scoring themselves, so it was a pretty good swing in points. That was something we couldn't overcome."
The Lions seemed ill-prepared to handle Chicago's furious defensive assault in the first five minutes of the game and they never totally recovered on their way to a 34-7 loss at Soldier Field.
Defensive tackle Tank Johnson sacked quarterback Jon Kitna on the Lions' second offensive play of the game, forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Brian Urlacher at the Lions three-yard line. Two plays later, Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman threw a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Gilmore.
Defensive end Alex Brown forced a Kevin Jones fumble on the second play of the Lions next offensive series, recovered the fumble himself and shortly thereafter the Bears had a 10-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game. They made it 24-0 at the half.
They Lions gathered themselves for an 86-yard scoring drive early in the third quarter. Kitna scored on a one-yard dive but an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Boss Bailey was nullified by a penalty against cornerback Jamar Fletcher and the Lions never regained any kind of momentum.