Jim Schwartz stood at the podium in the vistor’s press conference room and took every question he could, both from the Detroit and Baltimore media.
When asked if his team quit on Sunday in the Ravens 48-3 win over his Detroit Lions, Schwartz took a deep breath, paused and looked around the room.
That two seconds of dead air told everyone the answer he didn’t want to give.
And so, he didn’t.
“I think I’ll take a real long hard look at this game film and then…I will be able to get back to you on Wednesday with an answer to that question,” the Baltimore native said.
I saw the game with my own eyes from the M&T Bank Stadium and I don’t need another look at the film.
The Lions defense gave up on Sunday. The “Q word” is the worst label you can give anyone in sports.
It applied to the Lions on Sunday. They quit.
It embarrassed Schwartz in his homecoming game and it certainly set the Lions back a step or two in their quest to rebuild the downtrodden franchise.
Schwartz knows it.
And without question, it’s the most painful thing a coach has to endure because you can’t fire all 20 defensive players who played a role in it.
But he sure does have a right to do that.
The game – from an excitement standpoint – was about as captivating as the evening news. Half of the 45,000 or so who actually braved the elements to show up were long gone by the time Troy Smith strolled into the end zone with five minutes to play to finalize the scoring at 48-3. Smith’s post-TD dance, a bit bush-league when you’re up 45, I’d say, was probably witnessed by 15,000 people in the stadium.
Too bad those who came out weren’t treated to a more professional effort by the Lions defense. It would have made getting soaked by the freezing rain somewhat bearable if the game would have been decently played.
From Baltimore’s standpoint, a win is a win. It keeps them very much alive in the AFC playoff race and brings another weak-sister NFC North opponent to town next week when the Bears come in to get beat by 20 points or so.
But the story of the day wasn’t Ray Rice’s magical 166 yard rushing performance or Baltimore’s team record 548 yards of offense.
The story of the day was how a professional team like the Lions rolled over and played dead in the final 30 minutes of the game. It must be easy to do that with helmets on. No one can see the quit in your eyes, I suppose.
Down 27-3 in the third quarter, small signs of give-up started to show. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee were cutting in and out of the Detroit defense and both were picking up huge chunks of yardage on nearly every run.
Schwartz finally gave in to temptation with 1:03 to play in the 3rd quarter and called a time-out to chew his defense a new ass after Willis McGahee slashed through the left side of Detroit’s interior to gain 13 yards and take the ball into the red zone.
“I brought them in and told them in no uncertain terms that I would not tolerate a touchdown on this drive,” Schwartz explained after the game. ”I couldn’t watch them go through us like that anymore, without any resistance. So I called the time-out there and gave ‘em an earful.”
Two plays later, McGahee buzzed over and through the right side of the Detroit defense, zipping his way into the end-zone untouched.
So much for the time-out and the ass chewing.
The Lions then lapsed into a coma for the game’s final 20 minutes or so, missing tackles, missing tackles and missing more tackles. It wasn’t much better offensively, either, but when they had the ball, the Lions at least broke a sweat. On defense, the only thing they broke was Schwartz’s heart.
My personal scorecard showed a grand total of 3 players who stood out for the Lions as actually giving a s**t all afternoon: Daunte Culpepper, Calvin Johnson and running back Kevin Smith, who suffered what appeared to be a torn ACL in the 4th quarter. Other than those three, I don’t recall there ever being a play or a sequence where I said to myself, “Hmmm, that guy on the Lions looked like he was trying hard.”
Schwartz said afterwards he didn’t have an inkling this kind of performance was on the horizon for his team. ”I felt good on Saturday and I liked the way we warmed up in the pre-game,” he explained. ”There was nothing I saw that could have indicated we were going to perform the way we performed.”
That’s the worst part about coaching, I assume.
You prepare your team, you get a decent vibe 30 minutes before kick-off and then your defense goes out there and throws in the towel.
And everyone sees it.
It should be noted, too, that about 10 questions into his press-conference, the Lions PR official said to the media gathered in the room, “Two more questions and that’s it” and Schwartz put his hand up and said, “No, I’ll stay here and answer every single question they have.”
I’d buy stock in Jim Schwartz based on the way he conducted himself after the game today.
He talked of accountability and the need for more personal pride and he didn’t buckle when people asked him tough questions afterwards. And he could have easily answered a handful of them and then said, “Anything else, guys? I need to get back in there and attend to my team.” But he stayed. And he answered every last question.
He didn’t use the “Q word” because a coach just can’t do that, ever.
But he knows.
Schwartz has been around a long time. His defense stopped trying in the second half and he even called a time-out to embarrass them and challenge them at the same time…and suffice to say, that didn’t work.
I’ve seen some awful NFL performances in my day, but this one just about sets the standard for gutless. Losing 48-3 is one thing. Letting the other team score, though, just can’t happen.
And to think that this was the effort the Lions rewarded their coach with on his return to his hometown.
Some Sunday afternoon in the future, the Detroit Lions will wind up back in Baltimore again. If Jim Schwartz is still coaching, he’ll reflect on the December 13, 2009 game in which his team lost 48-3 and vow to not let that happen again.
Next time, hopefully his players will feel the same way.