The Detroit Lions Might Have Won, But Was It On Their Own Merit?
It’s easy for fans and teams to disregard poor performances in the wake of a win. Yes, of course the Lions won the game yesterday, but I view it as more of a win due to mere clock circumstance rather than a win earned. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t excited about the game either. Hell, I was there, singing Gridiron Heroes with the rest of the surprisingly large collection of Lions fans in attendance. Chanting our city’s name in the stairwells of Lucas Oil on the way out. Drunk off excitement, I now sit at my computer sober, ready to tackle the realities of yesterday’s thriller.
So what do I mean by ‘did they earn it’?
Frankly, whoever possessed the ball last in that game was going to come out on top. Defenses were mere traffic cones on the offense’s way to the end zone in the second half, and most especially in the fourth quarter with 28 total points scored between the teams. This game was eerily similar to the San Diego opener last year, when the Lions went up 21-3, then went into halftime up 21-10, exactly the situation in Indy on Sunday. They then proceeded to give the game away.
The Lions defense, which was stingy until the final drive of the first half, parted like the Red Sea for Moses QB #12 to lead his team on scoring drive after scoring drive. Stafford and the offense came through towards the end of the 3rd quarter and into the 4th, but the fact that this game was so close after utterly dominating the Colts for the better part of the first half was ridiculous.
I haven’t even gotten to the missed extra point. Wasn’t that the most Lions thing to happen? Tied at 28, Stafford and the offense go down the field and score a huge go ahead TD, and Prater blows the extra-point. It was a forgone conclusion that the Colts would go down and score after that, and Vinateri doesn’t miss. The only question was going to be would there be enough time left to respond, and thanks to a Colts mistake on a time-out, there was.
The best teams are critical, so in order to be the best fans, we need to be critical too. It’s week one, it’s not doomsday, but these are the things I saw that concerned me from Sunday:
1. Defensive Line Pressure
Knock knock. Ziggy Ansah? Devin Taylor? Is anybody there? Against a Colts offensive line that is one of the bottom 7-10 groups in the league, our two premier pass rushers had zero sacks. The Lions had two sacks only, both from Kerry Hyder, a man not many Lions fans (myself included) knew existed before week 4 of the preseason. Not only were there not many sacks from this group, it lacked in overall pressure. Most of the time in the second half Andrew Luck was allowed to just sit back for 3+ seconds and throw the ball around the field. Not a great recipe for success against an elite level QB. They performed well in the run game, but that isn’t saying much since the Colts haven’t had a 100-yard runner since dinosaurs roamed the earth.
2. Defense as a Unit
From being at the game and sitting where broke college kids sit, I couldn’t exactly see why there was such a drastic change from the 1st half successes to the 2nd half melt-down, but regardless it wasn’t pleasing. Whether it was a formation change, or Austin going more conservative with a lead, a group that ended 2015 strongly started 2016 on the wrong foot. A part of the Lions I believed would be a source of stability for the team, while the offense figured out the kinks with Cooter, was the exact opposite. With the new offensive coordinator picking up all of the defensive coordinator’s dead weight.
In fairness the Colts are an elite passing attack, with four fantastic options in Hilton, Moncrief, Dorsett, and Allen. But, if the Lions expect to compete in the NFL this season this mess needs to be cleaned.
3. Offenses Big Play Ability
The offensive game plan seemingly worked to perfection for the Lions. After jumping out to a 21-3 lead, even after the 3rd quarter lull and the Colts regaining the lead, the Lions offense always stayed in control of their own destiny. They were able to do what they felt comfortable doing. My concern is what will happen when the Lions are down a few scores, and need quick scores and chunk plays to get back into games. Yes, they’re up tempo, but they’re not home run hitters.
Jim Bob and Stafford seem to be content just hitting singles all around the park, with one of their play makers occasionally making it into a double. Even on the final drive, the biggest play was a 2-yard pass to Riddick that he turned into a 20+ yard gain. A few deep tries to Marvin Jones were un-successful, and most of Stafford’s passes were under 10-15 yards in the air. Again, the Lions weren’t in a position where they had to push the ball down the field, but currently I feel uncertain on how they’d do in that game-situation.
Those are the three main concerns. There’s more to nit-pick at, but overall that’s where the Lions need to be better. The positive is that these are all fixable problems, but they need to be fixed sooner than later in order for success to come to the motor city in 2016.