First Look At: Detroit Lions

A season that started with some promise has fizzled into yet another winless start to the season. At 0-3 this year, coach Jim Schwartz's record has sunk to 2-19.

Coach Jim Schwartz is starting to feel the heat. He's 2-17 since taking the reins and a loss in Green Bay on Sunday will give him the distinction of having the worst 20-game start of any coach in franchise history.

On Monday, he defended the progress the team has made, as well as defending himself against the barrage of criticism he got for settling for three points at the end of the first half in the 24-10 loss at Minnesota.

"Our record doesn't indicate it, but I think we have a lot of pieces in place to be a good football team," he said. "You're not seeing all the pieces on the field right now, but we have the pieces to be good."

The Lions could be without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder), running back Jahvid Best (turf toe), wide receiver Nate Burleson (ankle) and middle linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin, ankle) at Green Bay.

"We haven't been at full strength," Schwartz said. "That's not a reason to be 0-3 but we haven't been at full strength and you need to objectively look at that as a coaching staff.

"We've had some drop-off in some areas and there hasn't been much drop-off in other areas. But we've still had a chance to control each of the last three games and we failed to do that. So, I have a hard time sitting up here saying injuries are the reason because they aren't. We can do a lot more as a team to get ourselves out of those situations."

Down 14-7 Sunday, the Lions had the ball on the Vikings' 15 with 18 seconds left and one timeout. The Lions could have spiked the ball and taken one shot into the end zone before trying a field goal. Schwartz, though, let the clock run down to 3 seconds before calling a timeout and sending kicker Jason Hanson onto the field.

Despite being roundly criticized by the network television analysts, Schwartz said he would do the same thing again.

"We were in a tight ballgame and we needed points at the end of the half," he said. "You look back and could we have clocked the ball and had 8 seconds left and the timeout? Yeah, but we still would have had to take a shot at the end zone.

"We were already in field goal range so to get closer wasn't the object. The only thing would've been to get the ball into the end zone. But when the defense knows that you have to get the ball into the end zone, that's tough duty. To have a ball tipped, or a quarterback sack, or a fumble or interception, to me wasn't worth the risk."

It was not, Schwartz said, for a lack of faith in backup quarterback Shaun Hill.

"It didn't matter if it was Matt Stafford or Joe Montana or Shaun Hill," he said. "At that point in the game that's the decision I would make. The way that game was going, we needed to come out of the half with some points and that over-rode the chance to get four more points vs. the risk of getting zero."

Under the radar: The Lions like their two-tight end formations. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler combined for 13 catches, 104 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. However, that was supposed to be a secondary weapon used to get teams off Calvin Johnson. With Burleson out (ankle) and Hill not possessing the same arm strength as Stafford, the Lions have had to use the tight ends as a primary weapon, thus defeating the initial purpose.

Lineup watch: The linebacker position continues to be in turmoil. They went into the game Sunday without starting outside linebacker Zack Follett (concussion) and his would-be replacement Landon Johnson (neck). Ashlee Palmer wound up starting in Follett's spot, with DeAndre Levy (groin) returning to the middle and Julian Peterson on the other side. The Lions were left with special teams aces Isaiah Ekejiuba and Spencer Havner as the lone backups. On top of that, Levy went out in the second half, apparently re-aggravating the groin. The Lions may have to bring Caleb Campbell off the practice squad next week.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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