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Justin Rogers and Bob Wojnowski break down another dismal effort by the Lions, a 34-22 loss to the Bears, the team's third straight defeat by double digits. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News

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Chicago — Here are four observations after having a night to ponder the Detroit Lions' 34-22 loss to the Chicago Bears.

First down

The calls for offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s job aren’t new, but they’ve certainly picked steam in recent weeks. The offense was supposed to be good, potentially great, given the investments in the offensive line, running game and wide receiver. But alas, the unit has woefully under-performed most weeks.

Outside of Miami, and maybe New England, the complete offensive outings are few and far between. You’re likely well-versed in the red-zone woes by now. The offensive line went from looking pretty decent to completely falling apart in three weeks. And where did that newfound ground game go?

It’s all adding up to a team that ranks 20th in scoring, and even that’s inflated considering the Lions are adding their fair share of fluff to the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, when many games have essentially been out of reach.

More: Wojo: Blame for Lions' collapse starts at top with Patricia, Quinn

But for all of Cooter’s issues, the defense is worse. Far worse. And its failings are part of the offensive ills. The D isn't getting opponents off the field, isn’t generating turnovers, and by allowing long drive after long drive, they’re forcing the offense to work with long fields again and again.

You might be surprised to learn coming into Sunday’s game, the Lions offense was ninth in yards per drive, 13th in points per drive, and only the high-octane Rams were going three-and-out at a lower rate.

It’s easy to criticize Cooter because he’s been here longer, but Paul Pasqualoni hasn’t come close to doing an adequate job, raising questions about whether he deserves to be back next season, as well.

He’s never been a great NFL coordinator. In four seasons, he’s never had anything better than a middle-of-the-pack unit. And eight years removed from his last go-round, it’s worth questioning whether the game’s rapidly-evolving offenses have left his coaching style in the dust.

It would be difficult for Patricia to remove a mentor, but it could easily be gone gracefully. Pasqualoni will be 70 to start next season and could be shifted into an advisory role, the same way the Lions handled Gunther Cunningham a few years back. That would open Patricia to hiring a fresh, energetic mind to manage his defense, even if he’s still ultimately pulling the unit’s strings.

Second down

For months, the working assumption has been the Lions need to address their defensive front in the first round of the next draft. The needs along the defensive line haven’t been lessened, but we need to realistically consider the team could go cornerback in the first round and wouldn’t be the wrong doing so.

In Detroit’s defensive scheme, coverage is critical. It sets up the pass rush as much, if not more than the other way around. The team is set on one side of the field with Darius Slay, but the other side has been shaky. Opponents know this, relentlessly attacking the weakness.

Nevin Lawson does some things well, making life difficult on receivers with his physicality, but his ball skills are non-existent and that physicality brings out plenty of flags from the officials. And Teez Tabor, as reluctant as I am to use the bust label a season and a half in to his pro career, has shown nothing to inspire confidence in a turnaround to this point. 

So yeah, cornerback in the first round should be in play. LSU’s Greedy Williams, Georgia’s DeAndre Baker and Washington’s Byron Murphy top a pretty solid group.

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Third down

There’s this groundswell that general manager Bob Quinn owes Lions fans an explanation for what’s happening with the team right now. I wouldn’t hold your breath and I don’t know what he’s could say in the middle of this campaign that's going to quell the growing frustration with his plan.

When Quinn first took the job, he laid out a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence or gun crimes, then went on to sign two players who had recent gun incidents. What does that have to do with anything? Well, it was a foot-in-mouth moment for a young general manager, making a definitive statement without considering nuanced exceptions.

While it’s not apples-to-apples, fans are now quick to point out that Quinn proclaimed 9-7 not good enough when he fired Jim Caldwell. I’m not here to question that move, it happened, and even with the hindsight of this current disaster, it was still justified after four years without a division title or playoff victory. But if 9-7 wasn’t good enough, what will Quinn have to say about the current situation?

We aren’t likely to know until season’s end, and even then, it’s probably not going to satisfy.

Fourth down

If you were hoping for a ramp up in Ziggy Ansah’s workload in his second game back from his shoulder injury, it didn’t happen. The former Pro Bowler basically served as a third-down pass rusher as the Lions do their best to keep him from suffering a setback.

After this week, does anyone believe he's going to play his normal number of snaps in a Lions uniform again? 

This has been an exceeding frustrating season for all involved parties. The Lions committed $17.1 million to Ansah via the franchise tag and they’ve gotten a grand total of 46 snaps through nine games. It's been a wasted year for the former Pro Bowler.

Ansah’s durability issues were a known factor when he was tagged, but the issues hadn't previously reached this level. It will be another thing Quinn will be asked about when he takes the podium in the press room in January.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

 

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