JEFF SEIDEL: Lions’ offense held out of the end zone again

The end zone has turned into a mythical place for the Lions.

Sure, there are rumors of its existence — in folklore and fables — and other teams have found it.

But not the Lions. Not under the current system. Not with Joe Lombardi calling plays, not with Matthew Stafford throwing behind his receivers (or through their hands), not with the offensive line giving up sacks and not with three receivers dropping touchdown passes, as the Patriots pummeled the Lions on Sunday, 34-9.

The Lions have gone two-straight games without getting into the end zone (and actually holding onto the ball).

“We had opportunities to catch balls in the end zone,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We didn’t make plays, and when you don’t make plays, it obviously looks like you are inept in that regard.”

Yep, he nailed it. They looked inept all right.

It’s hard to pick out the ugliest moment of this game.

Was it the time Stafford started scrambling and went into a slide after 9 yards when he needed 10?

Was it the ball that zipped past Eric Ebron’s head, and he, uh, forgot to turn around?

Or was it three players dropping touchdown passes?

But the problem wasn’t just the offense.

It was also the defense and special teams. This was a total and complete failure.

The Lions entered the game holding teams to 290.3 yards per game and Tom Brady nearly surpassed that total in the first half, passing for 233.

The Patriots are like a chameleon. They can totally change their look, depending on the situation. A week ago against Indianapolis the Patriots kept the ball on the ground, rushing 44 times, turning Jonas Gray into a Sports Illustrated cover boy. And against the Lions, the Patriots flipped the script, transforming overnight, although it’s a heck of a lot easier to change when you have Brady.

The Lions’ strength is their defensive line, so the Patriots used a no-huddle, quick-passing attack. Brady was able to get rid of the ball quickly, neutralizing the pass rush as he carved up the No. 1-ranked defense, throwing for 349 yards and two touchdowns.

Here’s the thing that truly stinks. The Lions had a chance to stay in this game and make it somewhat respectable. But they blew several scoring chances.

Early in the second quarter, the Lions had the ball in the red zone and Stafford got the matchup he wanted. He lobbed the ball into the end zone to 6-foot-7 Joseph Fauria, who was going against 5-foot-11 Patrick Chung. Stafford threw a nice ball, but Fauria couldn’t hold it. For the record, for those who like to blame everything on Stafford and Lombardi, it was a great call and a catchable ball.

On their next drive, the Lions had the ball near midfield. The Patriots jumped offside, which gave Stafford a free shot. He threw a bomb to Corey Fuller, who didn’t technically drop the ball because, well, it went right through his hands.

And later, Stafford threw a ball to Jeremy Ross in the end zone, but he dropped it.

To borrow Caldwell’s line, that’s a whole lot of inept.

The past two weeks the Lions have had a chance to climb into the elite ranks. But the Lions couldn’t score in a 14-6 loss at Arizona and they were demolished against New England in every phase of the game.

The Lions were exposed.

Now, it wasn’t surprising that the Lions lost either game. But how they lost to the Patriots was a sobering reality check.

The NFL elite is out there. It’s a mythical place, at least for the Lions. It’s still out of reach. Impenetrable. Unattainable.

Just like that end zone.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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