DETROIT — Of course Jim Caldwell wasn’t happy with the Lions’ 30-23 Thanksgiving loss to the Minnesota Vikings, but he doesn’t think it sunk their playoff chances.
With the loss, the Lions dropped to 6-5, while the Vikings are now 9-2 and clearly in control of the NFC North. The Lions might have to win out and get some help just to have a chance at the final wild-card spot.
“There’s a lot of football left. There’s a guy that I know who is in this league for a long time, he said if you’re around .500 little bit before when you’re sitting down for your Thanksgiving meal, you’ve still got a chance. I’ve experienced it,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “… We’re not — don’t count us out just yet. We’ve got a lot of football yet to play and you don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s other games that are being played too. That’s a big thing – I know the media will paint it like the sky is falling, but the sky is not falling for us. We’ve got to get ourselves a little bit better and keep moving forward.”
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
The Lions have the next two games on the road — at Baltimore on Dec. 3 and then at Tampa Bay on Dec, 10.
Five reasons the Lions lost:
1. For the third straight game they were in a double-digit deficit early. As cold as the Lions were, it didn’t take long for the Vikings to heat up. They took a 13-0 lead with 3:55 left in the first quarter after a one-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph followed by Keenum running in from nine yards out for a score. Boom. Watching the first drive, it’s like the Lions’ defense wasn’t on the field. Way too easy.
“We just dug a little too much of a hole, we just didn’t perform well there at the onset. Anytime you do that against a good team it’s going to be tough. We fought back and gave ourselves a chance but some of those holes are a little too big to dig out of, it was tough,’’ Caldwell said. “Our guys fought to the end. We have to do a better job at the beginning in all three phases.’’
He said the only way he knows how to do that is through hard work.
2. Matthew Stafford didn’t have a great day start to finish. He completed just 57.1 percent of his passes, missing long and short on plays he typically makes. “Wish we would’ve won the game, didn’t play well enough to win, left too many points out there, missed a couple throws here and there that probably could have changed the game never fun to let that happen,’’ Stafford said afterward.
He injured his ankle on the play where he hit Marvin Jones in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. One of the Vikings accidentally rolled into him from behind, buckling Stafford’s legs. The medical staff went out on the field to check him out and he limped off. He didn’t miss a snap and limped into the media room after the game for his press conference. When pressed for how he was feeling, Stafford said, “Not 100 percent, but ticker is still ticking so I’ll be alright.’’
Overall he was 20 of 35 for 25 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 86.6 rating. The interception came late in the fourth when the Marvin Jones and cornerback Xavier Rhodes both went up for the ball and Rhodes came away with it.
3. Once again the Lions run game was a disappointment with 53 rushing yards total. Abdullah had six carries for 14 yards (2.3 yards per carry). When the Lions beat the Vikings on Oct. 1, Abdullah had his best game of the season with 94 rushing yards. Riddick was the leading rusher with 20 yards (4.0 yards per carry). Golden Tate was third with two carries for 13 yards.
4. And in other news, the Lions defense allowed 136 rushing yards which is actually down from the previous two games when they gave up more than 200 in each game. In the Vikings first drive of the third quarter, they ran four plays (all running) for a total of 75 yards to score a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 2-yard line. That was a killer that put the Vikings up 27-10.
“They just took it right down the field, they had 75 yards rushing in that sequence alone,’’ Caldwell said. “Up until then I thought our guys had done a decent job of getting stopped in the first half. That one was tough, it didn’t knock us out of it but it made it more difficult.’’
The Vikings rushed for 54 yards in the first half.
5. The Vikings are a better team all-around. Quarterback Case Keenum has grown into his role as starter while the defense has improved as the season has worn on. The Vikings have matured since the Lions beat them 14-7 on Oct. 1. The difference? The Lions have not made vast improvements since then. The team that has grown together is the one that’s 9-2. The team that is somewhat stagnant, is looking for answers with just five games left and a 6-5 record.