Lions stuck watching scoreboard after Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson fail

Written By David Steele
Calvin Johnson-121713-AP-DL.jpg
(AP Photo)

It was as if the Detroit Lions couldn’t stand success — and as if the two most crucial players, the ones who would lead Detroit to its first division title since the Barry Sanders days in 1993, could stand it the least.

Matthew Stafford, the $53-million quarterback, and Calvin Johnson, the all-universe, deeply-disrespected wide receiver, came up horrifically short Monday night against Baltimore. Because of that, the Lions couldn’t overcome the Ravens’ inability to score a touchdown, their huge gamble on a near-record field-goal in the final minute, or capitalize on either their early lead or their late go-ahead touchdown.

MORE: Playoff picture | Dez apologizes | Messy NFC

Worst of all, the Lions are now the team that has to play the rest of the season with an eye on the scoreboard. The winner Monday would control their playoff fate. That team is the Ravens, who seemed incapable of even tackling early in the game, but danced off of the Lions’ home field with an 18-16 win.

Among the celebrants was the rookie safety who had badmouthed Johnson during the week, then got the last word Monday on both him and his quarterback.

PHOTOS: Must-see Week 15 images | Cheerleaders in Santa outfits 

Stafford and Johnson will surely feel that loss harder than every other Lion. That was the Lions’ fourth loss in five games — with fourth-quarter leads blown in each loss — and instead of being in first place in the NFC North with two games left and a tiebreaker over Chicago, they are in third and desperately need help.

Stafford’s two interceptions in the fourth quarter were utterly inexcusable. They were terrible decisions, and the first one was simply thrown badly — sidearmed and off-balance — on third-and-two in their own territory, and straight to Ravens linebacker Darryl Smith.

LINEMAKERS: Week 16 point spreads 

The Ravens only led 12-10, after four of Justin Tucker’s eventual total of six field goals, and took their gift and got field goal No. 5 for a 15-10 lead with eight minutes left.

Meanwhile, Megatron had hands of Mega-stone. Johnson had already dropped two huge passes that had hit him right in his hands, and had been unable to hold two others that had been catchable throughout his career.

His final figures — six catches and 98 yards on 14 targets — were nothing close to what anyone expected as a result of the bulletin-board material the Ravens’ Matt Elam had provided last week, about Johnson being “kind of old.”

FANTASY: Week 15 studs and duds 

The worst was yet to come for Stafford and Johnson, though.

Stafford looked like the franchise quarterback on the drive that gave the Lions the lead with 2:21 left, capped by a touchdown pass whistled to Joseph Fauria in the back of the end zone. The Lions went for two. The Ravens were flustered enough on the try to call their second timeout before the snap. The Lions got exactly what they wanted, Johnson one-on-one on the left side of the end zone, and Stafford couldn’t have thrown it better.

Johnson dropped that one, too.

There was an obvious reason the Lions needed those two points, and why blowing it and leading only 16-15 was playing with fire. Tucker provided it, even though the Ravens made it hard on themselves again with their play-calling and clock management. They got away with it because Tucker was capable of a 61-yard kick.

They also got away with it because the game was then in the hands of Stafford, with three timeouts, the ball at the 20, 38 seconds and in need of, possibly, just 35 yards, since David Akers had once kicked a 63-yarder himself.

Stafford threw an interception on the Lions’ first play — to Elam, sitting back and hauling in the badly overthrown pass.

He ended with three interceptions, to go with Johnson’s three drops, at minimum. The two came up smallest when their team couldn’t afford it.

That will cost the Lions the playoffs — unless they see something helpful while scoreboard-watching the next two weeks.

Latest News

NFL Pick 'em Pool Picks Week 7: Expert advice on favorites, upsets to consider in confidence pools, office pools
Week 7 NFL Pick 'em Pool Picks
What is a sports equinox? Full TV schedule & more to know for 2021 NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL intersection
What is a sports equinox? Full TV schedule & more to know for 2021 NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL intersection
Broncos vs. Browns Fantasy Football Start 'Em Sit 'Em for Week 7 'Thursday Night Football'
Week 7 TNF Start 'em, Sit 'em
Deshaun Watson trade rumors: Dolphins 'getting closer' to acquiring embattled Texans QB
Deshaun Watson trade rumors: Dolphins 'getting closer' to acquiring embattled Texans QB
Is Odell Beckham Jr. playing on Thursday night? Fantasy injury update for Broncos-Browns Week 7 Thursday Night Football
Odell Beckham Jr. Injury Update