LONDON — The Detroit Lions took firm hold of the league's worst record Sunday with a 45-10 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in London, where the Lions couldn't contain quarterback Alex Smith or the Chiefs' blitz-happy defense.
The Lions fell to 1-7 heading into a bye week with many problems and no easy answers. The week's firing of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and two offensive line coaches did nothing to fix a passing attack that, under the new direction of Jim Bob Cooter, remained painfully unable to get the ball consistently into the hands of playmakers Calvin Johnson (5 catches for 85 yards) and Golden Tate (6 for 59).
After the game, coach Jim Caldwell faced repeated questions over whether he expected to be fired during the Lions' bye week.
"I fully anticipate being able to do my job," said Caldwell, who took the Lions to the playoffs last year in his first season as coach.
Asked whether he actually was doing his job, Caldwell responded, "Any time you're not winning, you're not. ... You'd better win games in this league. That's the key."
The Chiefs utilized frequent safety and nickel back blitzes to overwhelm the Lions' offensive line and rattle quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was sacked six times and threw two costly second-quarter interceptions that helped Kansas City take a 24-3 lead into the half.
"As a team, we have a lot to improve on, that's obvious," said Stafford, who finished 22 of 36 for 217 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions; most of that production came in fourth-quarter garbage time.
Caldwell said Stafford wasn't to blame for either interception, even though the first went directly to cornerback Sean Smith and the second looked like a forced throw to Brandon Pettigrew in tight coverage. Defensive back Ron Parker got to the pass first and deflected the ball high into the air for an easy pick by linebacker Justin Houston.
Caldwell blamed the first interception on "a miscue on a route run" by Ameer Abdullah and said Stafford "delivered it right where he was supposed to." On the second turnover, he said Pettigrew "was coming into an open area."
Smith's pick on the Detroit 37 led to a 33-yard Cairo Santos field goal that put the Chiefs up 17-3. Four plays later, Parker's deflection to Houston allowed the Chiefs to mount a six-play, 52-yard drive capped by Charcandrick West's 8-yard run up the middle for a 24-3 lead.
The Lions started the game at London's Wembley Stadium with a good-looking fast-tempo offense. Stafford hit Johnson short left for 11 yards. Joique Bell took his first carry 32 yards into Chiefs territory. But the drive sputtered when Parker got the first of his two sacks. Matt Prater's 35-yard field goal gave the Lions their only lead.
The Chiefs immediately replied as Knile Davis took the kickoff back 50 yards to the Chiefs 44. Smith's nine-play drive featured two third-down conversions to tight end Travis Kelce. Speedy wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas scored the opening touchdown on a left end sweep with two tight ends paving the way for Thomas to stride into the end zone untouched.
Smith frustrated the Lions' defense with a quick-hit passing game and a slippery pocket presence. Though sacked three times for 15 yards, he more often sidestepped pressure and ran five times for 78 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown that put the Chiefs up 14-3.
Johnson came up limping after catching Stafford's longest completion of the game, a 30-yard connection left in the fourth quarter. Johnson leaped high to outmaneuver 6-foot-3 Sean Smith, but landed awkwardly on his ankle. After the game, Johnson could be seen in the Lions' training room lying down with an ice pack wrapped around the ankle. He declined to talk to reporters, and Caldwell said he didn't know the severity of the injury.
"If you're not ticked off being 1-7, then why are you playing this game?" Lions receiver Lance Moore said. "There's no situation ever where you should be OK with losing. I don't care if it's the Super Bowl or if it's Week 17 and you're 0-16. It should leave a disgusting taste in your mouth. We've got to get this fixed in a hurry."
But he said firing Caldwell wasn't the answer.
"I love Coach Caldwell. He's not just a really good coach, but a great man. He understands how to win," Moore said. "We have to go out there and play better for him, not just for ourselves, but for our coach. He doesn't deserve this."