It would be easy to get discouraged now that the Lions have started the season 0-2, especially starting with two games that many fans felt were winnable coming into the season. A controversial call here and an incomplete rally there and the Lions quickly find themselves at the bottom of the NFC North standings.
The Lions haven’t been completely embarrassed in either game, which can sadly be considered improvement, but they haven’t been able to get over the hump and come away with a victory. The highs and lows we have been put through the last two Sundays makes me wonder, why does progress always have to involve so much pain?
Perhaps it is just part of the process (sorry, had to use that phrase!), a result of digging out of the deep hole the franchise had been put in under Matt Millen. A few wins along the way would be nice but let’s be realistic, this season wasn’t going to be about wins anyway.
The number of holes to fill is too great and the experience level of the most important pieces is too little. The positive takeaway from yesterday’s loss against the Eagles is that each part of the team played to a level that should be expected.
We all knew that the secondary was going to struggle this year. That certainly has been the case through two weeks but it is easier for me to accept because so little was expected. It would be a different story if it was the defensive line that was struggling; they were supposed to be the strength of the defense. Good news, they have been.
The Lions managed just 26 sacks last season, just three teams had fewer. Through two games this year the Lions are tied for the league’s most with ten. Nine of those ten have come from the defensive line. Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch have lived up to their billing with two sacks each while Turk McBride and Sammie Hill have done their part in somewhat limited duty to each record two of their own. Corey Williams and Louis Delmas have the two remaining quarterback sacks. There is still room for improvement as the Lions need greater consistency in bringing down the quarterback when they have the opportunity. One example sticks in my mind from yesterday’s game when Lawrence Jackson had a free shot at Michael Vick but whiffed and Vick scrambled for positive yardage. The Lions aren’t good enough to give away chances like that.
The team’s other strength was supposed to be their offense. The results have been somewhat mixed through two games but they showed more life in game two and had themselves in position to win each game in the final minutes.
Jahvid Best rebounded from a poor debut to put on a show for his new home crowd. His 75-yard touchdown reception was the kind of play the Lions haven’t been able to get from a running back since the days of Barry Sanders. While Best’s overall numbers are aided by his fantastic day catching the ball, he has showed a nose for the end zone having scored five times in his first two games, four of them on the ground.
Calvin Johnson was very quiet until late in the game but came down with an important touchdown grab as the Lions tried to claw their way back against the Eagles. It was nice to see him show up in a big spot but he will need to make himself more available in the first three quarters to justify his elite status. Brandon Pettigrew also came on late and played one of his best games against the Eagles. His sure-handedness was an asset to the Lions and did a lot to show that his knee is feeling much better.
I was critical of some of Shaun Hill’s decision making during the game but it can’t be said that he was the reason the Lions lost. Matthew Stafford is still a young quarterback and may have made some of the same mistakes that Hill made. Hill filled in well for the most part but tended to force the ball into places it shouldn’t have been thrown. Still, the Lions offense looked more than competent on a number of occasions.
The lack of wins will get frustrating as the year goes on, but at least we have real NFL football to watch in Detroit.