Both The Offense And The Defense Struggled Mightily In This Lions Vs. Saints Match Up.
This was a wild game. It was depressing for long stretches. It was exciting in short bursts. We saw things that we couldn’t have possibly imagine. That said, this was an ugly game for the Detroit Lions across the board. The Lions offense looked out of sync. The defense looked lost. Even Prater missed a field goal. Between the injuries and the struggles on both sides of the ball, there wasn’t much positive to take away from this game. This game was all of the problems the team had seen through the first five weeks, bundled up into a disaster of a game in this Lions vs. Saints match up.
Matthew Stafford did not look good in this game. He routinely displayed poor ball placement and held onto the ball for too long. Pressure has been an issue for the past few weeks, but at some point Matthew Stafford’s struggles cannot be blamed on the offensive line. He is dealing with various injuries. Those definitely don’t help. The offensive line struggles don’t help. The wide receivers’ inability to create consistent separation doesn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an ideal situation, but it is hard to ignore Stafford’s struggles at this point. He needs to be better. He just doesn’t look like his usual self. Tipped passes are a problem. Part of that is on pass rush. Part of that is on Stafford. This needs to improve.
Jim Bob Cooter made no improvements to his play calling. It was predictable in nearly every way. This Lions vs. Saints matchup showed exactly why he needs to change. Cooter needs to start breaking tendencies and thinking outside the box. This cookie cutter offense is not going to succeed if they continue in the direction they are going. Cooter needs to be better.
The running game actually showed some flashes at times. It was a small sample size, but in games like this, you take your victories where you can get them. Abdullah looked explosive and showed good vision on a couple of nice runs. Riddick still ceded work to Zenner on third down. Pass protection has been an issue and getting Zenner in the game has been the best solution the Lions have drawn up.
Golden Tate looked really good. Then he went down with an injury. If this is a serious injury, this is going to be a serious issue for the Detroit Lions offense. Marvin Jones had a really nice catch in the end zone but struggled to create separation on a regular basis. This Lions vs. Saints game exposed some of the deficiencies in this receiving group. The Saints played a lot of one on one man against the Lions receivers, and the pass catchers did not step up. With Tate out, Riddick started to take over a lot of the targets for the Lions.
The offensive line was abysmal. Greg Robinson was benched. TJ Lang was out with injury. Rick Wagner went down in the third quarter. Swanson had a bad game. This was a worst case scenario for the Detroit Lions’ offensive line. This Lions vs. Saints game was hard to watch on this front. Stafford was consistently under pressure. The run blocking was lackluster. There were no bright spots for this offensive line. If the line can’t get healthy, there is little reason for optimism that this offense will start producing anytime soon.
The Lions’ offense put the defense in a lot of bad situations. The fumbles and the interception gave Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense very favorable field position. The defense didn’t step up to the occasion. Outside of a Darius Slay interception, the Saints shredded the Lions defense. The entire unit looked gassed. I can’t blame them. The Lions offense kept giving the ball back to the Saints. That left very little time for rest for the defense. It showed.
The defensive line struggled to get any pressure on Drew Brees. If you weren’t sure that Ziggy Ansah actually played in this game, I wouldn’t blame you. In fact, he did play and failed to generate any sort of pass rush off the edge. The Lions were missing Ngata on the inside. The defense hasn’t had great interior pressure all year, but the loss of Ngata definitely showed.
So far this year, the Lions have excelled at stopping the opposing rushing attack. That was not the case in this game. The interior of the defense has done a good job all year at stuffing runs up the middle. They struggle to contain the edge. With Ngata out, the Lions struggled to stop anything. Without the ability to stop the run, the defense was without its greatest strength all year.
The secondary didn’t look great. On paper, they held Drew Brees mostly in check. In reality, the running game was effective enough that the offense didn’t need much from Brees. The secondary hasn’t been nearly as dominant as it was in the first couple weeks. The injuries to Tavon Wilson and Glover Quin are going to hurt if the injuries are significant. Wilson returned to the game and appears to be fine. Quin is possibly the most important player on the defense. The Lions cannot afford for him to miss time.
What This Means
The Lions did not play a good game. They made a good game of it, but they did not play a good game. They didn’t look like a contender this week. The Lions didn’t look like a good team this week. They didn’t even look like an average team this week. The Lions can’t play like this and expect to win games.
The injuries are piling up for the Detroit Lions. This Lions vs. Saints game was brutal in terms of health. The Lions need their bye week. They need to get healthy and regroup. This team looks beat up, and it looks lost. This is a far cry from the team that we expected to see after the first three weeks of football.