The Lions have come strong out of the gates during the first half in their three losses against three pretty good teams. They have appeared surprisingly competitive, even tantalizingly so, only to eventually have crumbled badly in the second half of each of those losses.
Their second half performance indicates several things. 1) Opposing teams are able to make the adjustments necessary to exploit the team’s offensive and defensive weaknesses in the second half. 2) The talent gap, which it is necessary for them to bridge so that they can move up a rung competitively, is still vast. In particular, on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions opponents have outscored them in the second half (64-23) and have out-gained them (529-357) and also have a longer time of possession (46:35-41:09).
These are problems which have plagued the Lions for years, so it is not a new concept. The mere fact that they have played well during the first half in two out of their three losses is actually a positive sign, in my eyes.
In Sunday’s loss, the worst special teams performance of the Chuck Priefer/Stan Kwan-era was on display, which aside from Johnny Knox(-ville?)’s deflating 102-yd kickoff return, plagued them in all facets during the entire game. Besides being out-gained in the returns game by a large margin(277-149), both Jason Hanson and Nick Harris, had improbably poor games, since they are normally so dependable.
The Lions will need to fine tune this aspect of their game, if they don’t want their season to continue to slide downhill. Head Coach Jim Schwartz has attempted to address their special teams problem, at least nominally, by replacing rookie RB Aaron Brown on kickoff returns with disappointing rookie WR Derrick Williams, who was initially drafted to fill that role. Where is Aveion Cason when you need him, right?
It is high time for Williams to become a factor. With Martin Mayhew’s personnel aggressiveness, Williams may be skating on thin ice. Hopefully, the Lions will prove that Sunday’s special teams performance was an aberration, rather than becoming a trend.
Tightening up the special teams seems like a reasonable issue to address, but I am not entirely certain what Jim Schwartz must do to fix their second half failures. Whatever he does, their defense will have a number of inadequacies for the remainder of this season, which they will have to overcome to a certain degree, if they want to remain competitive during an entire game, not just a half.