See that photo right there? Right above this line? That’s Calvin Johnson, watching the Detroit Lions offense try to perform without him.
It wasn’t pretty, and despite a solid overall game from the Lions defense, they couldn’t get the points or the game-changing turnovers that have characterized the Lions wins this season.
It’s tempting to put the loss on Johnson (or the lack thereof), but to do that would mean to exonerate Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, and the rest of the offense from responsibility. When a team’s biggest player misses a game, it falls on the rest of the team to pick up the slack.
Nobody did, the Lions lost at Lambeau Field (again), and the effect on the team’s statistical rankings is about as you’d expect. Will they survive the Cleveland Browns with another performance like that? Let’s see what this week’s stat table says.
The short answer? Absolutely not. The Browns are winners of three straight, with two of them coming against teams that at the time were .500 or better. Their offense isn’t exactly fluid, and it’s liable to get worse with the flash of magic that was Brian Hoyer going down for the season with an ACL injury.
But the Browns’ defense is a top-10 unit in scoring, total yardage, and passing/rushing yardage individually. If the Lions’ offense disappeared against the Green Bay defense, statistically one of the league’s worst, what will they do against a unit that is already holding their opponents under 210 passing yards per game?
Of course, there’s some context necessary here. To this point, the Browns have played Miami, Baltimore, Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Buffalo. Those are the 15th, 14th, 23rd, 18th, and 28th-ranked passing offenses in the league right now. They’ve played only two games against team with passing attacks (just barely) in the top half of the league — and they lost both of those games.
Statistically, the Lions have the 6th-best passing offense by yardage, but most of that is with Johnson in the lineup. If their offensive numbers against Green Bay were the average for their season, they would be 11th in passing offense and 29th in rushing offense.
And even those numbers don’t do justice to how inept they looked on the field.
If there’s a spot to exploit, it’s third downs on both sides of the field. For a solid defense, the Browns seem to have a difficult time getting off the field on third down, and they don’t convert them on offense much better. The Lions aren’t an incredibly efficient third down offense, but they field a shut down defense.
The Lions excel when they can stuff the run on the early downs, then unleash the pass rush on third-and-long. Against the league’s 24th-ranked offense and Brandon Weeden, that seems like a solid game plan, but it keys on the defensive line’s ability to create penetration. Ziggy Ansah is about to get the toughest test of his career against Browns left tackle Joe Thomas.
It’s hard to say how long this will last, but Kris Durham recorded his second-straight game with three receptions, one of which was a (garbage time) touchdown. That means this is the second consecutive week Durham has been the Lions’ most productive wide receiver. Chew on that for a minute while you try not to cry.
Also, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler each had four-reception days with over 50 yards each. They continue to try to convince the Lions that they aren’t terrible, and occasionally they succeed. Still, they’re all three threats to drop a seemingly undroppable pass. Usually moments before/after making a seemingly impossible catch. Any of these guys could be sleepers, but they’re also dangerous players whose already limited production could evaporate at any time.
Take your pick. Realistically, the entire offense was a disappointment.
Calvin Johnson is an obvious choice, what with his surprise deactivation, but if you were paying attention you should have been able to get someone else in, limiting the damage.
So instead, the choice is Reggie Bush, upon whom the Packers defense teed off all day long. He posted less than 70 total yards, and no scores. And unless Johnson returns to the lineup, it might be even worse against Cleveland.
Week 6 Sleeper
Kevin Ogletree looked surprisingly comfortable in the Lions’ offense, for a guy who had only spent one practice in it prior to the Packers game. Two catches for 20 yards certainly isn’t anything special, but he looked solid given the circumstances, and there’s a chance he could grow into a decent role once he gets the offense figured out and works out some timing with Stafford.
0 — Combined turnovers in Lions/Packers
67 — Yards on Randall Cobb’s long run
64 — Total rushing yards for Lions vs. Packers
155 — Rushing yards allowed by Cleveland in Week 5 win over Buffalo (what’s going to give?)
3 — Sacks in the last three games for Lions’ leading sack artist Ziggy Ansah (he also has two forced fumbles)
153.45 — Average number of yards Calvin Johnson would need per game (starting this week) to hit 2,000 this season, in case you were wondering
34 — Players with more receiving yards this season than Johnson
2 — Consecutive weeks in which the Lions’ opponent has had extra time to prepare (Packers were coming off a bye, Browns are coming off a Thursday game)
3-0 — Browns’ record when Brian Hoyer starts
0-2 — Browns’ record when Brandon Weeden starts (as he will Sunday)
5-3 — Lions’ all-time away record against Cleveland. The Browns are the only AFC team against whom the Lions currently hold a winning away record (there are two NFC teams, Philadelphia at 8-7, and Atlanta at 9-6). Don’t believe me? Check the team’s website.