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Lions weak first-half offense continues to sink team's chances

By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Writer
Stafford seemingly was stumbling around all night vs. Chicago. (US Presswire)

Entering Monday night's matchup against the Bears, here is how well the Lions offense had performed in the first half of its first five games of the season:

In the first quarters of all those contests, Detroit had combined for 12 points. In the second quarters, Detroit had combined for 16 points. If you don't have a calculator handy, that's 5.6 points per first half. Combine that with the Bears' shutout in the first half of Monday's game, and those numbers drop to 4.7.

Which, as you probably know, is somewhat pathetic.

Not surprisingly, the Lions haven't entered halftime with a lead yet, and that trend continued in Chicago's 13-7 win Monday. Entering intermission, Matthew Stafford had completed 8 of 15 passes for 43 yards. Running back Mikel Leshoure had 36 yards on eight carries. Stafford rushed twice for 17 yards. That was it.

Ninety-six yards of total offense for the Lions. And obviously, that kind of production is why Detroit dropped to 2-4 -- and it's why Detroit will have a tough time making the postseason, especially with the improvements made by Chicago and Minnesota and with Green Bay's general superiority (it's also why Stafford looked like this in the fourth quarter).

The Lions saving grace this season -- the reason they entered Week 6 averaging 419.6 yards per game, second best in the NFL -- has been their second-half production. Through the first five games, the Lions had scored 13 points in the third quarter (basically on par with how bad they've been in the first two quarters), but in the final 15 minutes, they had exploded for 56 points.

“If I had the answer, I'd take the pads off and start coaching,” receiver Nate Burleson said last week. “We've got to go out and find that spark at the beginnings of games.”

That didn't happen at Soldier Field. There were no sparks at the beginning, and there were only noxious fumes at the end. The car battery was dead, and nobody could jump-start the damn thing. Somehow, the Lions covered the spread, but they looked terrible while doing so. Making matters worse, Burleson broke his leg and is done for the season.

Yet, on script, the Lions first series of the second half was impressive. Leshoure gained 14 yards on the first play of the drive, and Detroit drove to the Bears 1. But on the 12th play, Joique Bell fumbled while stretching out for the end zone and Chicago took over possession. Add to that another red zone fumble by Leshoure and a late-game interception by Stafford near the goal line, and the Lions were hopeless.

Last week, they bailed themselves out vs. the Eagles by scoring 17 fourth-quarter points. The Philadelphia brass was so upset that it fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. But it's not every week that the Lions get to play a defense that's run by a former offensive line coach, and when they face a top-five defense like Chicago, starting off slow is, well, a non-starter.

“We can't make it this hard on ourselves every week. We understand that,” Stafford said last week.

But that, of course, is what the Lions did Monday night. It's what they've done all season. And it's the reason why Detroit's season is slipping away.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Josh Katzowitz on Twitter here: @joshkatzowitz.

 
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