By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on May 21, 2014
After starting the 2013 season at 6-3, the Lions were the favorites to win the NFC North, especially with both Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler injured at mid-season. Instead, coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions finished the season 1-6 for a 7-9 record and a third-place finish in the NFC North. Schwartz would then be fired after the season.
Here are five reasons why he can't be blamed for the second-half collapse.
In Detroit's Week 15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, star receiver Calvin Johnson choked under pressure and dropped two passes, including a potential touchdown.
When the star player on a team starts to succumbs to the pressure, the rest of the team slowly follows, and that's exactly what happened with Johnson and the Lions.
In Week 16, the Lions took on the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. In that game, kicker Justin Tucker scored all 18 of Baltimore's points in a 18-15 win, including a game-winning 61-yard field goal when the Ravens trailed 16-15.
The Lions helped out the Ravens at numerous times in the game, but credit should be given to Tucker, who is one of the league's best young kickers and made several clutch kicks.
In a must-win game against the New York Giants the next week, running back Reggie Bush had the same big-game struggles that Johnson had the week before.
Bush lost a fumble (his fourth of the season), and didn't do much the rest of the game. Bush was a high-priced free agent signing made that offseason to add another weapon to help Calvin Johnson, but he also choked under pressure in a big-time game.
It is hard to blame a rookie, especially a punter, but it has to be done. Not only was Martin a poor punter last year, but two plays during the season cost the Lions two winnable games.
Before the slide, the Lions faced the Bengals, and Martin shanked a punt late in the game that cost Detroit dearly. Later, against the Steelers, Martin fumbled a fake field goal in the fourth quarter, and also cost the Lions a chance to ice the game.
The quarterback gets all the credit when things go well, and all the blame when things go badly, and QB Matthew Stafford certainly personified this late in the season.
During Detroit's 1-6 slide, Stafford led the NFL with 12 interceptions, including four multi-interception games. Stafford's pick-six late in the Week 16 loss to the Giants not only tied the game, but led to an overtime loss, and the loss of a postseason berth as well.
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