Week Two saw the Lions lose again and in a familiar way. Still, there were some bright spots to be encouraged about and obviously some areas where improvement is needed. I think it was a better performance and a step forward for the team in some ways.
Some of my questions heading into the game:
How would the team respond, overall?
How would the offense look in Week Two?
Would the defense be able to step up and make some plays?
Would special teams not be a disaster?
Let’s go over some of the things I saw after watching the game.
Big Play Defense
Yes! We have a big play defense. Unfortunately, what I mean is that they give up some big plays over the course of the game while making their share of big plays. One of the alarming things a lot of fans have noticed is the lack of tackling. It’s been a trend in the league in recent years and has definitely been a problem for the Lions so far, specifically for guys like Jarrad Davis, unfortunately. This is something that needs to get better and hopefully will as the year goes on and everyone gets more comfortable in the defense. Then maybe we won’t get gashed for some huge runs that really break a defense.
On the positive end, the defense stepped up when their number was called. On the first drive of the game, they got two sacks that forced SF into a field goal after they marched down the field. The Lions defense ended up with four sacks in the first half, benefitting from pretty good coverage and some blitzes/stunts that freed up defenders. Otherwise, there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure on Jimmy G.
After Matthew Stafford fumbled in the second quarter to give the 49ers great field position the defense again came up with a stop to force a field goal.
In the fourth quarter with the Lions down 10, the defense came up with another stop to give the Lions a chance. Guys like Quandre Diggs and Jamal Agnew stepped up in coverage on that possession and that is very encouraging going forward.
And, you’ll remember, down three, the Lions came up with a couple more stops. One being the interception by Tracy Walker that got called back; and then later in that drive to give the Lions one last shot with about a minute left.
I know they got gashed on some run plays and struggled getting a push and pass rush. I know some guys like Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor struggled in coverage. They’re going to learn and get better. The defense can’t be to blame when they come up with enough stops and give the ball to the offense to give the team a chance. This is something we’ve seen the last few years, and it’s really quite frustrating. The unit that we thought to be our strength – our offense – continues to struggle even after our weaker unit delivers. Now, about that offense.
“O” No…not again.
Sunday was just another chapter in a sad story we’ve seen for the last few years. As I said on Twitter, it was the type of game that we fired Caldwell for, and that doesn’t bode well for Jim Bob Cooter.
Now it wasn’t all bad. We actually got a push up front and had some success running the ball! Which is great, and to me, means that we need to commit to the run. Keep working with it, add some wrinkles here and there and keep the running backs rotating. The run game paid off on the first touchdown to Kenny, who was wide open after coming down into the slot or wing position and faking a block.
An area of concern for me is third down. Notably, third and short/manageable. Somewhat like the red zone, when the field gets shorter the Lions fall into some trouble and look like they have their hands tied a little bit. It’s not an easy place to call plays but the idea I think should be to be aggressive. This falls on Matthew too. See what the defense is giving us and attack instead of just trying to get the three or four needed yards. Golden, Theo, and the tight ends are all guys to look for in these sort of situations. Michael Roberts showed up late in the game with a TD and could really come into his own on third down. And, Wilson had at least one catch and a nice run after, so bring them into the fold more and let’s see what they can do.
Another area of concern is the play of Matthew Stafford. I am slow to criticize him because he is our best player and one of the reasons this team has been mediocre the last couple years. But, we all saw that he missed some throws in Sunday’s game that he probably shouldn’t have. So what gives? Obviously, he’s been under pressure. He didn’t get hit too much on Sunday which is good, but he was forced to move around a little bit.
Lions beat writer Justin Rogers pointed to Stafford’s mechanics on Twitter.
Second time in as many weeks it looks like Stafford has left too much weight on his back foot on a deep ball, giving him an inconsistent follow through. I’m halfway through Sunday’s game and have three conference calls to knock out before resuming the film.
— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) September 18, 2018
Matthew has to be better and he knows that. The thing is everyone else needs to be better to. A lot of guys are dropping passes, the protection varies and our run game isn’t where we want it yet. Continued improvement is the goal and is what we’ll all be watching for.
Close your eyes #Lions fans:
-No other QB has more dropped passes from receivers than Stafford
-Ragnow has the most pressures allowed for all #NFL linemen
-Decker is the worst ranked run blocking OT per PFF
-Tabor has a perfect passer rating against him when targeted pic.twitter.com/i2XD6tMgfv
— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) September 18, 2018
All caps just ’cause. To be a great team you have to win in all phases. Anyways, just from watching the game you would say Sam Martin had a better day punting the ball. Still, he has one of the worst net averages in the league according to the aforementioned Logan Lamorandier.
The opening kickoff of the second half was not good. You can’t come out and allow the other team to take the momentum like that. It resulted in a quick score and gave the Lions a bigger hill to climb.
Positively, Jamal Agnew was HUGE. On the ensuing kickoff after that Niners score to open the third he returned it out near midfield. Then, of course he had the punt return for a touchdown called back. He’s a bright spot and playmaker back there, and the Lions need to eliminate mistakes like penalties in the return game so it can be a catalyst for the offense.
Last, and certainly, not least: Discipline
Penalties were a huge factor in Sunday’s game and for both teams actually. The Lions racked up 10 penalties for 106 yards, which is pretty much inexcusable. A couple of them were drive killers: the Lions’ first play in the red zone in the third quarter was a holding penalty. The next play after that was another holding penalty. They ended up having to kick a field goal.
Another big one was on Jamal Agnew’s punt return for a touchdown. After looking at it, I didn’t really see an illegal block. Jamal didn’t make it easy on the return team but still. Just don’t block a guy if you’re not in position to.
And lastly, the holding penalty on Quandre on Tracy Walker’s pick near the end of the game. It didn’t look like a penalty at all but the NFL says it was the right call.
For me, yes it’s very frustrating to end up on the wrong end of some of these judgement calls. But, if you don’t want the officials to have an impact, don’t let them be in a position to affect the outcome. Also, the Lions have never ‘earned’ any sort of calls from the refs and they never will until they become a top team that gets the benefit of the doubt. So, just beat the other team and don’t give the refs a chance to have a say.
So, this game left a lot to be desired on both sides of the ball. It looked like an improvement over Week One, though. For me, all eyes are on the offense. They have to do a better job. JBC is officially on the very warm seat. How long will they give him to figure things out? He needs to work with the team’s strengths and shape the offense’s direction around that.
Obviously a huge challenge coming up this week. SNF, against the Pats. Most anyone would say the Lions have no chance. It’s a very intriguing matchup between Patricia and Belichick, and no matter what happens I’m really looking forward to the game.
That’s where I’m at with this team. Obviously, you want to win, but the bigger thing to me right now is how the Lions look. Are they improving? If the Lions would’ve won on Sunday it would’ve covered up the issues the team has like in year’s past. Now let’s see what we’ve got against one of the best teams in the league.
What’d you think of Sunday’s game? Do the Lions have any chance against New England? Let me know! Thanks for reading.