A Look At Which Detroit Lions Feasted And Who Struggled Against The Dallas Cowboys In Week Four.
Detroit Lions That Feasted Against Dallas
Matthew Stafford has come under a little bit of fire in recent weeks due to some questionable placement on balls thrown deep down the field through week three. However, returning home to Texas seemed to shake the early season rust off of the Lions quarterback. Stafford was nailing his targets all night and was on nearly perfect on his deep ball attempts. His best game of the season thus far ended with 307 yards, two touchdowns, and an 80% completion percentage.
Golden Tate was Stafford’s hot hand in another game against the Cowboys. There was not a defender that could hang with him in man coverage and was slippery after the catch all night. This led to his best performance of the year with two touchdowns and had a perfect catch rate on the night, hauling in eight passes.
Darius Slay was the best Lions defender on the field, as expected. It was very promising to see such strong performances the past two weeks following two straight weeks of needing to leave the game for a brain injury. Slay had three passes batted down and only allowed two receptions when targeted.
Detroit Lions In Famine
Sylvester Williams should carry a lot of the weight of this loss. The Cowboys running game was incredibly effective against the 32nd ranked run defense in Detroit. Cutback lanes were open all day, which was largely due to Williams inability to maintain gap discipline, as he kept crashing down or getting washed down the line. Even when he was in the right position, he failed to finish the play. On Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliot’s longest run of the day (41 yards), Williams was within inches of him but failed to get his arms around the back to bring him down.
Christian Jones is Williams’ partner in this defensive letdown. Not only did the interior line get beat, but once they got to the second level to block Jones it was all over. Jones was regularly bodied by the Dallas offensive line, failing to consistently shed blocks and locate the run all night. The cutback lanes were open all night for Elliott for two reasons: Williams leaving his gap open to allow runs through and Jones’s inability to fill the hole on the backside of the play.
Jim Bob Cooter had another game worthy of criticism. His play-calling became more creative as the game went on, but took far too long to find it’s groove. Personnel decisions were also quite questionable with the running back group. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson has been the far more effective back in Detroit, in all areas, through the first four weeks. He even opened the game against Dallas with a 32-yard run.
This was until Cooter limited his reps the rest of the game. The Lions had several drives stalled out due to ineffective inside running with LeGarrette Blount, who averaged just 1.7 yards per carry. While Theo Riddick has been effective in passingpass attack, he is far from an every down back due to his ineffectiveness as a runner, and even he got more playing time than Johnson. These decisions were likely highly influential, as this game was decided by less three points.