Shorthanded defense, parade of penalties doom Lions in 16-15 loss to Titans.

An ugly affair from start to finish, Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions choked away a crucial home game against the Tennessee Titans.

The real story of the game was the horrendous amount of penalties on both teams. It was as undisciplined a game as you are likely to see with many of the penalties coming on completely thoughtless mistakes. Penalties changed the course of drives all game and took plenty of points off the board, an especially big cause of missed Lions’ opportunities. The Lions finished with 17 penalties for 138 yards and the Titans did their part committing 12 penalties for 83 yards.

If the staggering number of penalties wasn’t enough for the Lions to overcome, injuries depleted and already thin Lions defense. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Antwoine Williams left the game with injuries, really hurting the Lions who came into the game with only four active linebackers. Ezekial Ansah left the game early in the first for the Lions, who were already without star linebacker DeAndre Levy.

Ameer Abdullah also left after a beautiful run in the second quarter and never returned.

Only up 12-3 at halftime due to various boneheaded plays, the Lions collapse resembled many of the traits we’ve come to expect. The second half featured the usual Jim Caldwell conservativeness that Detroit fans have witnessed blow many leads. Into Titans territory facing 4th and 2 with a chance to help ice the game, the Lions decide to punt only to have a defensive lapse on the very next play letting DeMarco Murray rip off a 60-yard run.

Instead of continuing to use the up-tempo offense that led many lengthy Detroit drives in the first half, Caldwell elected to slow things down, predictably bogging the offense into ineffectiveness. Only mustering a field goal the entire second half, the Lions banged up defense allowed two late touchdown drives as Detroit’s handcuffed offense couldn’t move the ball or chew up clock time.

Stafford led the offense deep into Titans territory numerous times, but miscues took points off the board in bunches. He showed drive and passion all afternoon finishing 22-40 for 260 yards and 1 touchdown but it was his game-ending interception that will be remembered in this game. He certainly can’t be faulted for lack of effort picking up a career-long 24 yard run on the way to 31 yards rushing on two carries, even hit sticking Perrish Cox on his previous scramble. Unfortunately, the Lions beat themselves in the end.

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Marcus Mariota overcame a shaky start to take advantage of Detroit’s vulnerable defense. He led the game-winning drive completing a touchdown pass to a double covered Andre Johnson who muscled the ball away in heavy traffic. Mariota rallied to complete 25 of his 33 passes for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns despite early miscues and an interception to Glover Quinn who tracked a ball to the sideline from midfield. The often mobile Mariota was limited to 11 yards on two carries.

DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry formed a potent duo combining for 129 yards on 21 carries and catching 8 passes for 65 yards. The two of them picked up plenty of chunk plays down the stretch opening things up for the offense in the fourth quarter.

The Game Turned When

When else? Driving close to field goal range with time winding down in the fourth quarter, Stafford ran out of magic. It felt just like the previous week in Indianapolis, enough time was on the clock with enough timeouts to get in range for a Matt Prater game winner. Only this time Stafford misfired and Perish Cox stepped in front to pick his errant pass off effectively ending the game. The same Perish Cox who was victimized all game and absolutely leveled by Stafford earlier had the last laugh.

A Look Ahead

The outlook isn’t pretty. It will be hard for even the biggest Kool-Aid drinkers to envision a successful trip to Lambeau Field next week after the disaster that took place today. Discipline is coach Caldwell’s M.O. and quite frankly the only thing he may be even OK at as a head coach, yet the Lions just threw away another important game with an incredible lack of self-control.

Adding a banged up roster and a staff that refuses to stay on the gas, the Lions will be lucky to keep it within twenty against Green Bay if there aren’t some drastic changes this week.

At least Lions fans know the drill by now. Shame on those of us who allow themselves to have real expectations.

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