Lions face a crisis point


Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— What’s done is done. If you are the Lions, nothing good can come from looking back and trying to rationalize the penalties, the turnovers or the absurd meltdown by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on Thursday.

All of it is indefensible.

“They can say what they want about us,” coach Jim Schwartz said after the 27-15 loss to the Packers.

Oh, they have. The Lions, by their own actions, have turned perception into reality. And until they provide evidence to the contrary, they are what the rest of the country has been saying they are — a reckless, undisciplined football team.

There is ample talent on both sides of the ball, but until they can collectively get their emotions properly harnessed, until they prove they can play big in the big moments, they can’t be considered legitimate playoff contenders.

At this point, even though they are still in the chase at 7-4, how can you consider them anything but a long shot to get a wildcard spot?

The losses are to arguably the four best teams they have played — the 49ers, Falcons, Bears and Packers. That cannot be dismissed. They are 2-4 since starting 5-0. They have lost three of their last four at home. They are melting down as the stakes get higher.

The season and their reputation are certainly salvageable, but this is a crisis point for the Lions. They will have a chance at redemption, a chance to re-stake their claim on a wild-card spot, a week from Sunday in New Orleans.

They will have the national stage again — NBC “Sunday Night Football.” They have an opportunity to show they are a quality team, not a collection of talented thugs.

But you have to wonder if too much damage already has been done — to their reputation and to their roster.

The Lions may have to play against the Saints’ high-powered offense without two key defensive starters: Suh and safety Louis Delmas.

Expect Suh to be suspended for his untimely unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejection in the third quarter Thursday.

Delmas injured his knee in the first quarter and said via Twitter he could miss the next couple of games.

In addition, the Lions on Friday put starting running back Jahvid Best (concussion) on injured reserve; he’s done for the season. Kevin Smith, who took over the starting spot on Thursday, is questionable with a high ankle sprain.

Cornerback Chris Houston left the game with a knee injury.

Schwartz has a lot of fires to put out before he can even begin working on the team’s emotional balance. But it has to start with Suh. Even if the league doesn’t suspend him — the consensus is they will — Schwartz needs to.

Schwartz has had Suh’s back to a fault, up until now. If he doesn’t take a drastic step to get Suh’s temper under control, he runs the risk of doing long-term damage to one of the franchise’s biggest assets.

He punished right tackle Gosder Cherilus for a lesser offense in the season opener, not playing him in Week 2 after he took a late personal foul penalty. He would be hard-pressed explaining to his team the double-standard if he didn’t sit Suh for at least a game — playoff chase or not.

“I know Suh. I’ve talked to him several times,” former running back Marshall Faulk told NFL.com. “The person and the player that we see at times, there’s a disconnect. Something’s going on and he needs to get to the very bottom of it to find out what it is that, when someone is getting the best of him, angry Suh comes out.”

Somebody needs to show Suh how to restrain angry Suh. The league will take first crack at it.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Friday that Suh’s stomping on the arm of Packers offensive guard Evan Dietrich-Smith was likely to be reviewed for possible disciplinary action.

“We have said nothing about a timetable but we have said this — plays from Week 12 to be reviewed for potential discipline will be done so under our normal procedures after the completion of all games,” Aiello wrote in an email.

Tuesday is the day, typically, that the reviews are done.

Suh has been fined three times already in his young career, so he would be considered a repeat offender. Former Tennessee Titan Albert Haynesworth was suspended for five games back in 2006.

Earlier this season, Minnesota’s Brian Robison was fined and not suspended for kicking Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang in the groin.

Expect Suh to get a one- or two-game suspension from the league, which Suh and the Lions should graciously accept and then start making reparation.

Let the rest of football nation take their shots and make their judgments. There’s no defense to the accusations right now. It’s circle-the-wagons time. The Lions have five weeks to be the team we all thought they were through the first five weeks — the team with the dynamic offense led by a smart, strong-armed quarterback and a violently aggressive, though law-abiding, defense.

They are 7-4 with games at New Orleans, at Oakland and at Green Bay, and home games against San Diego and Minnesota.

If they can regain their balance, physically and mentally, and manage two or three more wins without any more incidents, they will have the last laugh on their critics.

Even if they don’t make the playoffs, they will still be considered a team on the rise. But if this goes completely off the rails these last five weeks, then, say it with me — it’s the same old dysfunctional Lions.

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

(313) 222-1489

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