Cook: Lions losing culture tough to shake

Detroit doesn't have the kind of defense that you can count on forcing a quick three-and-out late in the game when the offense needs the ball back. It's vanilla in a way that makes vanilla ashamed. More of James Cook's column inside.

How do you go about changing a culture of losing?

That is the million-dollar question.

The Lions can't seem to shake it, no matter how many talented players they trot out onto the field, no matter how many supposedly bright coaching minds they bring in.

The Lions' culture of losing is harder to shake than Jimmy Johnson's hair.

I would like to enter into evidence last week's game against an San Francisco. Or at least it was called a game. In reality, it was one team just showing up, and another taking home a gift-wrapped win. Detroit seemed to disinterested in playing last Sunday that I'm surprised they remembered to put their helmets on.

And that was a winnable game, folks. A winnable game.

What, were they looking ahead to Arizona?

The Lions head into this week's game against a similarly struggling franchise. Both have lost a lot -- I mean A LOT -- in their histories, and both had high hopes coming into the season. Both have had those hopes dashed faster than K-Fed can change his moniker to Fed-Ex.

Now, instead of a match-up between two up-and-coming teams looking to get a leg up on a playoff spot, the two lowly squads are battling for the front-runner spot for this year's No. 1 overall pick. Who has their money on Matt Millen taking Ted Ginn Jr.? Place your bets, place your bets!

A big difference is Denny Green is fighting to keep his job, while Rod Marinelli's seems fairly secure.

(Note to Rod Marinelli: When Mike Martz asks to be excused at halftime, it's for a quick interview.)

Of course, last week the Lions played a struggling franchise and managed to throw the game away.

And I say "throw away" because there was absolutely no excuse for the Lions to lose to San Fran. None.

Blame it on fumbles, a few bad calls by the referees or whatever, but the bottom line is that Detroit simply just didn't show up. If they come to play for four quarters in that game and the defense adequately informed that number 21 is pretty decent and comes up with a plan to stop him, then they win that game. Getting beaten by Alex Smith is like getting beaten by Kyle Orton. What? You mean that actually happened?!?! OK, that just proves the culture of losing point.

When your team is going into a game 2-6, you can't take any team for granted, and it appeared as the Lions did just that.

The 49ers, meanwhile, came in prepared and had an actual game plan. How progressive.

Detroit, on the other hand, skated through the first half like it was a day at Steve Mariucci's training camp.

How a team that has played as poorly as Detroit in stretches can take anyone for granted and just not show up for a game is beyond me. San Francisco had given up an average of 40 points per game in its previous three road contests, yet Detroit and Mike Martz' offense can only muster 13?

Fumbling problems aside, that just won't cut it.

The Lions are getting very good quarterback play for the first time in ages and it is going to waste. The line only seems to be able to open up running lanes sporadically at best, the secondary at times seems lost in zone coverage, the defensive line is getting almost zero push or pressure on the quarterback and aside from Ernie Sims, the linebackers seems to have the opposite side of Velcro that's on the chest of the offensive lineman in front of them.

Teddy Lehman can't shed a block to save his life and Alex Lewis is still overrunning plays. Paris Lenon is consistent, but unspectacular, and Boss Bailey lost his inside linebacker spot to a guy that gets blocked more than the center square.

On to the D-line, where Kalimba Edwards has been a bust as a pass rusher and Shaun Rogers is still a week away from completing his suspension. Losing James Hall for the season really hurt. Kalimba is not half the pass rusher Hall is, despite that supposedly being his specialty. Cory Redding has been a beast wherever they put him, but without Rogers around, he's the guy being focused on. Oh, and Shaun Cody has been out for how many weeks now with a foot boo-boo?

The Tampa 2 defense may work out after all, but the Lions' version appears to be much more bend-but-don't-break than advertised. It's not the kind of defense that you can count on forcing a quick three-and-out late in the game when the offense needs the ball back. It's vanilla in a way that makes vanilla ashamed. Donnie Henderson did bring a few blitzes last week (who didn't like bringing the safety?), but it was too little, too late.

The offense has been a similar train wreck, although it's much harder to specify why. Kitna is on pace to break the single-season Lions passing record, yet the offense has a tough time consistently moving the ball.

And forget about the red zone. The Lions continue to bog down inside the 20, just like they have for the last half dozen years.

Back to the Cardinals. I predict the Lions will win this one, much like the beat New Orleans last year. It'll be a win that ultimately bites them in the rear by costing them a shot at the next Reggie Bush.


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