The Detroit Lions continue to break an NFL record every time they play on the road. The Lions lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday 35-19 to extend their road losing streak to 26 games – an NFL record. They find the same way to lose each road game: give up a big play once they have momentum, produce stupid penalties (2nd most penalized team in the NFL), cough up the ball at the worse time, and not able to run the ball.
Let’s start with giving up the big play – the Lions defense just recorded a safety to go up 12-7 in the third quarter and had the ball. Instead of taking momentum and control of the game, the Lions could not move the ball and had to punt. Nick Harris laid down a nice punt inside the Dallas’ 5 in which Lions John Wendling batted it down to prevent it from going into end zone for a touchback. Since the Lions touched the ball, the receiving team can pick the ball up and advance it without any consequences. Even if the receiving team fumbles, the ball goes back to where the kicking team touched it last. So Wendling batted it down, but the ball took a waist size hop right into the hands of Dallas PR Bryan McCann who ran it wisely back 97 yards for a touchdown. Replays show he may have stepped out of bounds at the 30, but the evidence was not clear cut.
On the ensuing possession, the Lions FB Jerome Felton took a handoff and scampered 5 yards before he coughed up the ball giving the Cowboys great field position. America’s team needed only 3 plays before QB Jon Kitna hit WR Miles Austin with a 3 yard TD pass. Within minutes, the Lions had given up momentum and most importantly – 2 touchdowns. The Lions never recovered.
What’s even more disturbing is the offensive line. A local Detroit radio station had Cowboys WR Roy Williams on their show last Friday. Even though he made some outlandish comments including Matt Millen was an excellent general manager, Kitna is just as good as Tony Romo, etc. during the interview, Williams pointed to the offensive line as for the Lions failure the past decade. And he may be right. The Lions again have no running game. Sure, the running backs are banged up, but the line does not produce any holes when they are healthy. The only time the Lions have been successful running the ball this season is when RB Jahvid Best gets around the outside, but that’s mainly speed. Lions C Dominic Riaola, who has played 10 seasons for the Lions, took offense to Roy Williams’ comments. He and the line had a chance to show him and the world that it’s not the offensive line’s fault. Instead, the line was awful on Sunday with untimely penalties, not protecting QB Shaun Hill as the Cowboys recorded 3 sacks, and not establishing the run as the Lions produced only 75 rushing yards. Last week against the worst rush defense in the NFL, the Lions scraped up a lousy 76 yards against the Bills — at least, they are consistent.
The Lions only have 2 road games left and both are in Florida. It’s hard to imagine stopping the road losing streak anytime soon unless they cut down the penalties and find a way to start running the ball.
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Written by Bob Ballard