While the growth of positive momentum was palpable in Chicago after a second straight Bears come-from-behind win last Sunday, something quite different and more sinister was building over in Detroit where the Lions collapsed in a 42-17 fall-from-ahead loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell did not explicitly cite individual players for quitting, but neither did he state that full professional effort was present in a team now 0-5 and teetering on an abyss.
“I think guys still played hard and worked hard,” Caldwell said on Wednesday. “Now, if you ask me, was it every single guy? It’s tough to monitor that, to tell that deep inside every individual. They’re the only ones that can answer that question.”
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Caldwell benched a handful of players — among them, quarterback Matthew Stafford — as the downward spiral intensified, to the point of the Lions allowing 28 points in 13 minutes to the Cardinals.
Whether Stafford, who threw three interceptions in last Sunday’s loss after taking six sacks the week before in a loss to Seattle, was one of those effort questions is between Caldwell and quarterback. But Caldwell acknowledged that when a succession of setbacks occur, the need is there to guard against a “here we go again” mindset, something afflicted the 2014 Bears.
“You do,” Caldwell said. “You have to make [players] understand that it’s not a perfect game, no matter what the situation is. There’s never been a game played perfectly across the board so there’s going to be some ups and downs. They have to be able to weather through that storm.”
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Which the Lions didn’t do: "We didn't fight through it very well yesterday." Caldwell said the day after the Arizona debacle.
When a team talks about not quitting, some thought is that quitting blood already is in the water. When confidence is a talking point, it already is a problem and the Lions appear to be fighting against more than just opponents.
“I mean, it's still early in the season and definitely 0-5 is not where you want to be,” said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. “But if we start stacking wins and getting that confidence back in ourselves and back in each other and practicing real hard and trying to focus on getting a win, it'll come back to us.”
Which says that it’s not there now.