Despite a rather lackluster effort by both the offense and defense outside of a few specific drives, the Lions had a chance to score a last-minute touchdown and possibly send their game against the Steelers to overtime. A touchdown in the latter stages of the fourth quarter made it a one-possession game, and then the Lions defense made another big stop to force a punt. Daunte Culpepper completed a few big passes to move the Lions down the field, putting them only 20 or so yards away from what could have been the game-tying touchdown and 2-point conversion. That is when all thoughts of a comeback came to an end, though. Culpepper was sacked on three straight plays, and on 4th and 34, his miracle heave downfield was knocked away at the goal line. The Steelers were able to take a knee and escape with a 28-20 victory.
What is so disappointing about this game is how close the Lions were to sending it to overtime or even simply winning in regulation. When you consider how many blown chances there were all game long by the Lions on both sides of the ball, they really did give it away to Pittsburgh. Some of the blown opportunities were just unlucky, like Jason Hanson missing a field goal for the first time in ages. Others were stupid mistakes, like when Culpepper tried to throw the ball away after a fumble and it went right to a Steelers player for the interception. That play alone cost the Lions a shot at a field goal and perhaps a chance to win the game on that last drive, but then again, the Steelers defense wasn't about to let Detroit do anything once it got in position to score at the end.
Coming out of this game, the special teams play improved for the most part, but there are still clear issues on both the offense and defense. On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions are going to have to figure out how to make up for their offensive offensive line play. So many times Kevin Smith was brought down just after getting the ball, and on most passes Culpepper was running for his life or eaten alive by multiple Pittsburgh players. Another concern is the status of Calvin Johnson, who left this game early on with what looked like a leg, or more specifically, a knee injury.
On defense, the Lions have to get their secondary shored up (we've been saying that for years now). Ben Roethlisberger, outside of throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown, had his way with Detroit's secondary, and Rashard Mendenhall had a solid day on the ground. A combination of getting no pressure on Roethlisberger and poor play by the secondary led to the big day through the air, as the defense started playing well once Big Ben didn't have time to throw. On the ground, it was a combination of bad tackling and terrible angles of pursuit that allowed Rashard Mendenhall to run for 77 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
The Lions are now 1-4 and have a tough matchup at the Packers next week. I really hope Matthew Stafford gets healthy and is ready to play, because although Culpepper showed some promise at times, overall he didn't impress me very much. Plus, I want Stafford to get back out there and continue to gain experience and improve. Lambeau Field is a tough place to play, especially for a rookie quarterback, but the experience will only make him better. If Stafford is unable to play next Sunday, we will have to wait until November 1 at the earliest when the Lions face the Rams after their bye week to see him again.