The Detroit Lions lost to the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 24-20 on Sunday. Here are my three main takeaways from the game:
NOTE: I've already covered the officiating in this game extensively in other posts, so I'm moving on to other topics here.
That first quarter showed just how good this team can be
For the last few years, we've constantly heard something along the lines of, "Just wait until the offense and defense click at the same time." Well, we got a great look at this in the first quarter on Sunday, and boy was that a glorious sight. The offense executed and scored touchdowns via a big play and a lengthy, efficient drive, and the defense made Tony Romo's life absolutely miserable with constant pressure. Finally, the Lions came together with a complete performance, and even if it was for just one quarter, it was nice to see this team live up to its full potential.
The offense didn't get the job done yet again, and neither did Jim Caldwell
Unfortunately, things fell apart for the offense after that first quarter. They left points on the field at the end of the first half and early in the third quarter, and they failed to do anything after the blown pass interference call happened. And that leads me to my other point here: Jim Caldwell's over-conservative nature struck again.
Caldwell has shown signs of being an aggressive coach at times this season, but generally speaking, he reverts to a more conservative mindset. That was clear on the fourth-and-1 after the pass interference no-call. Granted, the Lions were only at the Dallas 46, but he sent the offense out there to try to draw Dallas offside instead of actually going for it. I certainly understand his thinking, as turning the ball over on downs would have put Dallas in a position where a couple of first downs get them in field goal range, and it's not like the Lions have a stout offensive line or a consistently good offense that they can rely on. However, one stinking yard was all the Lions needed to move the chains and make that blown call a complete non-story. Winning teams make winning plays, and the Lions punted on that notion.
The special teams units need an overhaul
Of course, it's easier for me to criticize Caldwell given what Sam Martin did after the Lions elected to punt. He shanked his kick and sent the ball 10 yards, setting up Dallas with great field position anyway. Had Martin pinned the Cowboys at the 1-yard line, I'm sure I'd have a different view of Caldwell's decision to not go for it. But that's really beside the point in this section. Martin has shanked punts in key moments before, and he did it again on Sunday. That simply cannot happen at such a crucial point in the game, as losing all that field position really put the Lions defense in a tough spot.
Special teams blunders are nothing new for the Lions, though. Their disastrous kicking situation at the start of the season is well-documented, and the coverage units really struggled down the stretch of the season. And don't even get me started on Jeremy Ross. He was a huge asset on special teams in 2013, but he became a huge detriment this season. Whether it was not knowing when to field or return punts, muffing punts or foolishly taking kickoffs out of the end zone, Ross seemingly made one or two bad plays in every game. He's got to go in 2015, and the Lions really need to consider making a bigger change by replacing special teams coordinator John Bonamego, who is ultimately responsible for all of these mistakes.