After it was all over, after Alex Henery clanked a field goal off the post, after he missed two more, after the Lions blew an 11-point lead, after Dan Carpenter hit a 58 yarder just show how vast the kicking gap was, after it sunk in the Kyle freaking Orton just manufactured a comeback against the Lions and after Bills players carried Jim Schwartz off the field, Jim Caldwell sat in an interview room in the bowels of Ford Field and said something he didn’t believe.
“All this tells us in terms of this loss is that we’re not going to go 15-1,” Caldwell said. Ndamukong Suh later parroted the same sentiment.
They both know better. Teams that start 4-1 make the playoffs 77 percent of the time. Teams that start 3-2 make it 50 percent. Caldwell and Suh knew they were riding a wave, hoping to be next year’s disappointment, the team everyone knew had major holes yet somehow kept winning. They weren’t and they aren’t. No, the Lions are a glitchy team with too many injuries and not enough depth.
They can’t make a field goal. Their secondary is the type that gives up 20-yard receptions to Sammy Watkins with 14 seconds left, always one game away from being truly exposed. They can’t make a field goal. Their best player is injured. Their best linebacker is out for the season. They ended the game with their fourth-string running back. They can’t make a field goal.
The end result is a loss in a game they should’ve drove off into the horizon with. The Bills ran for 49 yards. Orton threw one touchdown pass and one interception. He had a QBR of 30.3 on a 100-point scale. Buffalo still won on the road.
Matt Stafford’s interception pace is down. His completion percentage is up. He’s found another option in Golden Tate. But again he threw an interception at the wrong time, at a point where the Lions were at the Buffalo 38-yard line and had a chance to go up 21 points. At the end, he couldn’t get the extra first down and couldn’t get lucky with a 50-yard field goal from Henery. Like the Lions, Stafford can’t shake the past.
Which brings us to Jim Schwartz. He spent five years as Detroit’s head coach. That’s five years trying to outrun whatever hangs over this franchise. He almost succeeded. He brought the Lions from horrid back to frustrating. They’re back to handing out critical wins to other franchises while squandering their own opportunities. Another coaching change hasn’t fixed it, at least not yet.
So Schwartz came to town, holding a mandate from long ago. He told his Bills players at offseason OTAs he wanted them to carry him off after they beat Detroit. It happened. They did. Schwartz sat up there with the smug half smile on his face that makes most on the other side think he’s a douchebag. He gave a fist pump.
He is vindicated. The Lions are back to normal.