Throughout their season opening victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Lions demonstrated flashes of promise, as well as weakness. The obvious positives include the victory, as well as escaping Raymond James Stadium in relative good health. From an execution standpoint there were several welcomed surprises. As this game approached, much of the talk nationally was based on LeGarrette Blount and the assumption that the Bucs would be able to run the ball at will as they did last season against Detroit. Blount was not only a non-factor throughout the contest, he was largely non-existent. It was the Lions who demonstrated their interior running ability with the offensive line getting just enough of a push to allow Best, Morris, and Harrison to be effective. The run game was not explosive, or even as consistent as it needs to be, however it was effective enough to open up the passing game and slow down the Buccaneers pass rush. This is still an area that must get better each week as the season progresses.
There were drastic improvements in the linebacking play from last season, but more important was the overall improvement in team tackling. The Lions had one of the worst tackling defenses in the NFL last season, and often allowed short plays to explode into huge gains. It was evident throughout the game that this was an area of focus in camp, as Lion defenders made consistent open field tackles. This was not only due to the upgrades at linebacker, but also a result of the Detroit defense swarming to the ball, and exuding the type of swagger and speed that an intimidating NFL defense requires.
The Lions were not devoid of disappointments, however, with the largest being the inability to pressure Josh Freeman. The Buccaneers employed a quick drop, short passing game that did not allow the pass rush enough time to reach the quarterback. The Lions secondary was able to keep the Tampa receivers in front of them, and away from big plays, but struggled to disrupt the flow of the offense once in rhythm. Freeman was largely able to pick apart the short coverage, and move the team down the field near the end of the game. The Lions were largely playing safe coverages, ensuring that they did not give up a quick score, but this is still a concern with more efficient passing teams on the schedule.
Ultimately Lions fans can breathe a sigh of relief after a hard fought victory over a good Tampa Bay team, but they should not rest easy. There is a long season on the horizon and the NFC North is looking increasingly like a premiere division in the NFL. While this young team still has much to prove, this is a night where Lions fans can be proud once again.