DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions' offense was the part of the team that was missing its playmakers, with its star passer in street clothes and its best rusher likely shelved for the season. But it was the Lions' defense that stank in a 35-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
And it was the Lions' defense that led the franchise to another loss -- this one putting them at the precipice of the effective end of their season in mid-November.
Lions quarterback Jeff Driskel played well enough, accounting for a rushing touchdown and two passing scores. Bo Scarbrough, promoted to the active roster Saturday, looked as if he could have potential as a rusher. Combined, the two did their part.
It was, as it has been all season, the defense that fell apart. Detroit has shown it can't handle a team with more than one talented wide receiver. As much as Darius Slay helped shut down Amari Cooper, that just meant Michael Gallup (148 yards) and Randall Cobb (115 yards) could light up the Lions (3-6-1) instead. The Cowboys racked up 434 passing yards.
If it isn't one thing with the Detroit defense this season, then it's the other. Keep Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott fairly well contained (45 yards) on the ground, but the passing attack is the reason for the loss. In games when the Lions have been good against the pass, the run has throttled them. The pass rush continues to be inconsistent -- and inconsistency is just the identity of this Detroit defense.
Each week, Lions coach Matt Patricia says the coaching has to be better and progress has been made. But, what progress is that? Is it enough? It certainly isn't coming in the only area that matters -- wins and losses.
Detroit has lost six of its past seven games. That has very little to do with how the offense has played, whether it's been Matthew Stafford or Driskel in charge. It has been the fault of the Detroit defense, the area of football Patricia is supposed to be most proficient in.
Instead, the poor play of the Lions' defense, combined with too many high-end teams in the NFC, is the reason Detroit is all but out of the playoff picture already -- with six weeks left in the season.
QB breakdown: Driskel didn't look like Stafford, but he did what was necessary, completing 15 of 26 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and rushing eight times for 51 yards with a touchdown. There were a couple of scramble run-versus-pass decisions that he might have wanted to go the other way -- in hindsight choosing to run instead of pass -- but otherwise he managed the game well and gave Detroit an intriguing dimension with his ability to run and roll out. He's showing that, at worst, he can be a serviceable backup for Detroit and a fill-in starter.
Silver lining: Detroit has been searching for a star rusher since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve in October with a knee injury. Scarbrough, who was signed to the practice squad a week ago and was promoted Saturday, looks as if he has some potential to at least be part of a committee. A bigger back at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, he showed good power, hitting holes on his way to 55 yards on 14 carries.
Describe the game in two words: Defensive. Failure. The Lions continue to make every offense they play look better than it had in previous weeks, this time giving Cowboys QB Dak Prescott time to bounce in the pocket for seconds before dissecting Detroit's secondary.