Don’t misconceive this article as praising the team. The Lions played horrendously last night in their 13-7 loss to the Chicago Bears in yet another poor performance on the nationally-televised stage. The offense can’t score, the defense struggles to tackle, and there continue to be special teams blunders each and every week.
That being said, the Lions were in it until the very end, on the road, against a talented opponent. Let’s take a look at the little bit of promise that came from the tough division loss on Monday night.
Titus Young: The Lions No. 3 wideout finally got involved into the game plan on Monday night, albeit mostly when the game was out of reach in the final minutes. Young, who has been dealing with a leg injury to start the year, lead the team with six catches for 81 yards, including two key receptions on the final scoring drive.
While still early in his career, the Lions need more out of the former second-round pick. He will get that chance to shine, though, now that Burleson is out for the season with a broken leg. Young will now lineup opposite Calvin Johnson for the rest of the year and will assuredly get plenty of opportunities to make an impact.
Jonte Green: When news came out an hour before the game that Jonte Green would be starting, I think I heard the entire Lions fan base let out a collective groan. While he has not played terribly, Green has had noticeable mishaps in a few games this season that seem to stick out in fans’ minds.
Last night, though, the sixth-round pick out of New Mexico State asserted himself quite well. Green finished the game with three tackles and a sack. More importantly, you rarely heard his name mentioned, which as a cornerback, is a good sign.
The Bears were unable to take advantage of the rookie’s inexperience, and Green did not give up the big play. He did miss a critical tackle on a wide receiver screen to Hester in which Green had him dead to rights, but that was his only visible negative play for the entire game. The Lions may have something here with this young cornerback.
D-Line: Dating back to late last season, the “vaunted” Lions defensive line was the furthest thing from vaunted. Despite the investments the team had made to make the group one of the most talented on the roster, the entire line was underwhelming to start the 2012 season. After the bye week, though, it seems as if the entire group has regained its old form as a disruptive force.
The Lions now have 17 sacks on the year, with nine of them coming in just the past two games. While the defensive ends do disappear during stretches, Vanden Bosch and Avril have had mult-sack performances the past two weeks. Suh and Co. on the interior have also stepped up their game, creating havoc despite an injury to starter Corey Williams. This defense only goes as far as the defensive line, so the past two games have been an encouraging sign.
Riley Reiff: One of the new wrinkles that have been added to the offense in 2012 is the “jumbo package”, which includes a sixth offensive lineman in the play. That role is held by first-round pick Riley Reiff, who has seen his weekly snaps increase game by game.
Head coach Jim Schwartz has consistently said that the goal is to get the best players onto the field, and Reiff is showing us why he is more involved in the game plan. Seemingly every time Reiff is on the field, the Lions are gaining big chunks in the ground game. While he did get tossed aside like a rag doll on one play when trying to block Julius Peppers, Reiff has asserted himself extremely well with his run-blocking abilities.