Excuses ... excuses?
Whether or not anyone (even head coach Rod Marinelli) wants to hear it, the loss of receiver Roy Williams and right guard Damien Woody in the early going significantly crippled Detroit's offense -- and the team's chances. Williams went down with a shoulder stinger, and immediately thereafter, Woody left the contest after having his left foot stepped on. Being fiscally responsible, the Lions saved gas by carting both off the sideline at the same time. What they were unable to do, however, was establish any balance between the run and the pass.
Without Williams, Detroit (0-5) rarely was able to stretch the field, relying upon short routes and dump-offs to the tight ends and poorly executed slants to Mike Furrey and Eddie Drummond. Jon Kitna completed 23 of his 42 attempts for 242 yards, a paltry 4.3 yards per pass including four costly turnovers.
Woody's absence may have been even more detrimental, however.
Without their best offensive lineman and major cog in the rushing attack, the Lions lined up only two starting offensive linemen (LT Jeff Backus/C Dominic Raiola), allowing Minnesota's already stalwart defensive line to eliminate Kevin Jones (10 carries, eight yards) and any threat of the run. The Lions rushed the ball just 11 total times, leaving a short-handed pass attack to deal with one of the more effective defensive backfields and fronts in the league.
Little Mike Williams
After the parading of Mike Williams by receiver Roy Williams the past few weeks, the Lions' coaching staff decided to give 'BMW' a chance against Minnesota. His response? In the second half, Williams dropped the only pass thrown in his direction, and never returned to the field. Meanwhile, the Lions were somewhat effective with Az-Zhair Hakim, who led the team with eight receptions for 92 yards.
For the second consecutive week, the Detroit Lions held a lead in the fourth quarter, only to lose it in devastating fashion. The Lions were up 17-3 to open the fourth quarter, but it was the offense that handed the game away rather than the defense. Two critical miscues by Kitna -- including an interception that was returned for a touchdown with 1:31 remaining -- allowed the Vikings to seal the win.
Before their final (and relatively meaningless) drive, the Lions had managed just one first down and 35 total yards in the entire fourth quarter.
Oh defense, where art thou?
Prior to Sunday's game, Marinelli was ecstatic about the chances of Detroit's defensive line finally coming to life. Against Minnesota, however, they remained dormant.
While a Shaun Rogers hit allowed for the team's first interception of the year, the Lions again failed to register a sack for the third consecutive week. Brad Johnson, notorious for his short-passing efficiency, wasn't incredibly effective yet kept Detroit's secondary on its heels by completing 26 of 34 passes for 201 yards. Even worse? The Lions typically strong rush defense was kept off-balance by Minnesota's offensive line, which helped push running back Chester Taylor to a 26 carry, 123 yard performance.
While Minnesota's offense didn't necessarily generate much offensively, the balanced offensive attack allowed them to hold the ball for over 36 minutes, compared to just 23 minutes for Detroit.