ALLEN PARK — Like any NFL team the Lions would have preferred to go into their bye week riding a high with a win.
Not only did they lose 52-38 on Sunday in New Orleans, it was a game that exposed their shortcomings.
Coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t mind that the players have an extra week to stew about the loss.
“Sometimes festering’s a good thing. So, we try to balance it and it kind of depends on where we are as a team and how we see it and we adjust it in that regard. But there’s nothing wrong with being really determined about making certain you correct your errors,’’ Caldwell said on Monday. “So, it just kind of depends on the week. When you got one right away, you certainly try to get it behind you within a relatively short period of time, and this particular week, it’s not a bad thing that we need to be concerned about a whole lot of things in terms of how we’re playing.”
Players and coaches went over film on Monday — it couldn’t have been any fun— and will look to correct those mistakes before the players get league-mandated time off.
The Lions (3-3) will worry about their next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, when they get back from their break.
Five things that should be on the to-do list for the Lions:
1. Get healthy. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Caldwell said after the game, and again on Monday, if they had to play on Thursday night they might be in trouble. “If we were playing a Sunday game it might be even fairly tough, so this comes at a great time for us,’’ Caldwell said on Monday. The injured include Matthew Stafford (ankle, ribs), Glover Quin (concussion), Golden Tate (shoulder), T.J. Lang (back), Greg Robinson (ankle) and likely more we don’t know about. And, of course, Caldwell wouldn’t provide any news. When asked if any of the injuries are long-term, he just said, “We’ll see.” No injury report will be released this week due to the bye.
2. Fix the offensive line. It will help when left tackle Taylor Decker returns which could be in a few weeks. Caldwell wouldn’t say. But in the meantime, they’ve got work to do on the line. Don’t know where to start. They seem stuck with Greg Robinson until Decker returns. It’s a mash-mash of bodies. It’s a mess. The line is part of the reason that Stafford has been sacked 17 times in the last three games. Fix the line and Stafford will look like the quarterback he can be. Funny how that works.
3. Figure out how to get the offense out of neutral and off to quicker starts. The Lions have been outscored 37-17 in the first quarter in the first six games and 92-62 in the first half. Caldwell said it changes from game to game, but they are not executing early
4. The defense has to stop the run. Sounds easy, eh? Well they allowed the Saints to scamper for 193 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. They miss Haloti Ngata but other guys have to step up. Plain and simple. “I’m as much concerned with the turnovers that we had that cost us points, that gave up points as anything. That teams going to score some points, but we certainly got to be able to keep them at bay,’’ Caldwell said. “It’s really the yards on the ground obviously we’re concerned about. Anytime they can churn up that kind of yardage on us we’re concerned and the turnovers mar a lot of different things just in terms of, when you look at strictly how the game unfolded, turnovers kind of clouds your mind a little bit.’’ The Lions lost two fumbles and Stafford threw three interceptions.
5. This is specific. Figure out how the Saints were able to tip a dozen balls on Sunday. It was the most in the league on Sunday. Caldwell said it didn’t mean that the Lions offense is too predictable just that it was an unusual game. “I mean, you just look at the game, it’s kind of changed a little bit. I think A’Shawn (Robinson) has 10 at such a young stage in his career. And big John Henderson when we played when he was at Jacksonville was a big, tall guy in there, J.J. Watt’s one that’s done a great job of adjusting. I just think it was just one of those games that you — we’ve played a lot games around here within the same system and it was just unusual. Just unfortunate, and they were all different ways that they had them,’’ Caldwell said. “Maybe it was a lineman didn’t cut his guy, his hands got up, he’s supposed to get him on the ground, maybe it was a launch angle, those kinds of things. So, it was a lot of different scenarios, but the great thing about it, even though it was difficult, and it wasn’t pretty, and we’re not happy with it, it’s correctable. So, we’ll go to work on that.”
BONUS: Caldwell on the loss of Aaron Rodgers and what it means to the NFC North: “He’s a great player but you find that you look across the League and there’s a number of teams that have guys starting for them that they’re not starter at quarterback position that still play extremely well. That’s a good football team all the way around. They’re good on defense. They’re good kicking game. They have a really good unit. He’s obviously a phenomenal player, but I still think Green Bay is Green Bay.”