Much for the Lions’ coaching staff to take a look at this week after a dismal performace at home against the Falcons. Let’s get to it.
Is it just me or has Matthew Stafford looked genuinely disinterested the last two games? I understand that there’s off days, but from their failed two-minute offense last week to the multiple lazy throws against Atlanta, I’m wondering if Stafford has that competitive edge that’s required of an elite quarterback week in and week out. He threw under 50% accuracy, and his only touchdown pass came to Calvin Johnson, who, after the catch, did all the work himself. With his health currently in question against the Broncos, a QB switch might be a good change of pace before reinserting him after the bye-week.
Running Backs: B+
Hey, this was much more than we were expecting with Jahvid Best sidelined with a concussion. As I noted in an earlier post, Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams averaged 5.3 yards per carry together for nearly 100 yards. They didn’t do much in the screen game, which the Lions have come to lean on in the past games, but they were adquate fill-ins for the week.
A lot of this is a product of Stafford’s sub-par play, but eventually something’s got to give; Megatron can’t do it all. Calvin Johnson, of course, was on his game yet again hauling in five catches for 100+ and a touchdown (and one missed slam-dunk). But Nate Burleson and Titus Young failed to make an impact again. Brandon Pettigrew, by his own standards had a poor game as well. These guys aren’t taking advantage of Johnson’s double and triple coverages.
Offensive Line: B+
Like the running corps, I was surprised at the production of the line despite low expectations. Aside from the first drive where two sacks were allowed (only one more after that), I thought they gave Stafford more than enough time on most plays to stand in the pocket. Additionally, this was probably the best run-blocking game this group has had all year.
Defensive Line: B-
Once again, they fell short in terms of numbers, but even though the sack count was relatively low (just three), they caused Matt Ryan to throw earlier than he would have liked. Ryan is usually a very accurate quarterback and against the Lions he missed 14 throws and was picked twice.
They did their job. Take away Michael Turner’s 50 yard run, and he managed 26 carries for only 72 yards, or, 2.8 yards per carry. DeAndre Levy had a game-high 11 tackles and Stephen Tulloch had some nice plays sniffing out the runner in the backfield. The only real concern is the production of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who was covered by linebackers the majority of the game. But hey, it’s Tony Gonzalez. Only one person (immortal) in the history of the NFL has caught more passes than him.
Defensive Backs: A-
Just like the line backers, this group really did their job against a dangerous pass attack. Aside from the two interceptions from the backs, Aaron Berry became a relevant name with some fantastic man coverage and Louis Delmas looked like the second-round draft pick we all expected, hitting hard. You can’t really even put the blame of Roddy White’s touchdown grab on the D-backs because of how perfect the pass was. It uncatchable, even for White. Sort of.
Special Teams: D
They didn’t kill the Lions, but they were just all around sloppy Sunday. Stefan Logan had two fumbles, one of which was lost. Hanson hit his field goals and Donahue punted well enough, but there was no spark from this unit. Coverage, again, was only decent enough. I think the Lions will need a big play, perhaps a 50 or so yard kick return, next week for that little extra that could push them over the edge.
Coaching is a very easy aspect to criticize after a loss, but this one puzzled me as much as last week’s. What I’m gathering from the offensive play schemes and calls are that, as of now, Calvin Johnson is the only viable threat on offense. Yet it takes them several series, or even quarters, to get him involved. Even more curious is that the Lions coaching staff were well aware of how poor of a pass defense the Falcons have, yet they were more dedicated to the run game than when Jahvid Best is in the lineup! I don’t know if Jim Schwartz has to become more involved as an offensive coordinator (as a former defensive coordinator, I don’t know how well this would work out) to get something out of this unit that Scott Linehan hasn’t, but something’s got to change, especially in how they approach the game in the first two quarters. Can’t keep relying on heroic comebacks anymore.
You can look at the Colts this year and see how far they have fallen and wonder “Is Peyton Manning that important to that team?” Well after their winless start, that answer is most definitely yes. The importance of a team’s quarterback is only reinforced by Stafford’s poor play against the Falcons. He was surrounded by adequate or above average play from the rest of the team, but they couldn’t come away with the win. Put simply: if Stafford succeeds, the Lions succeed.