Nov 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) calls a play in the huddle against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 37-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Areas for Improvements In The Detroit Lions’ Pursuit of The NFC North Crown


Last week we highlighted focus and secondary play as areas the Detroit Lions needed to improve to win the game against Pittsburgh. We also highlighted the offensive line and challenged them to play better, although they have been outstanding in pass coverage and run blocking this season. The Lions failed in all three areas we addressed.

If you missed last weeks segment, just click the link below to see our analyst in depth

Week 10: Focus and Secondary play

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers recap:

Offensive line summary

“We didn’t protect as well as we have been. The coverage they were playing , you weren’t going to get quick routes. You had to push the ball down a little deeper down the field and our clock wasn’t the same.” -Jim  Schwartz

Precisely, the reason I highlighted the offensive line in last weeks segment. Statistically, the line has done a great job protecting Stafford all season allowing a league low 12 sacks. But as we now the success of the offense isn’t based on one position group. Matthew Stafford is also getting the ball out of his hands quicker than anyone in the NFL. The Lions quick routes and the wide receivers ability to win on those routs allows for a lower sacks allowed total. On deep routes you’ll notice Stafford has to use his mobility and move around the pocket on a lot of their deep throws to keep plays alive. In short, the Lions didn’t allow Stafford any extra time to throw and that was one of many factors for the Lions’ poor showing on offense.

You can bet the Steelers noticed this and made it a point of emphasis in their game plan when deciding how they were going to play the Lions. No doubt the poor weather conditions factored into the missed throws and  poor performance from Reggie Bush, but the offensive line definitely has to improve against stout pass cover defenses like the Steelers. The Lions can’t count on  favorable weather conditions to get their offense in rythem moving forward, otherwise they will make sub par run defenses like the Steelers look stellar.

Focus and Secondary

Let’s just bunch those two categories together, because the focus wasn’t their for either area and the secondary had it’s worst game of the season. Reggie Bush was counted for just one fumble on the stat sheet, but he really lost the ball twice, although the Lions snapped the ball before one that likely would have been overturned. The wide receivers dropped a few catchable balls, including Calvin Johnson, that would have led to first down and huge gains. Again you can blame the weather, but the Steelers were playing in the conditions and made more plays then the Lions did.

Go ahead and put an asterisk next to last week’s areas, because they aren’t off the hook. This week, our areas of improvement will be tackling and execution.

Tackling

If you watched the game in Pittsburgh, tackling (or lack there of) may have been the first thing you noticed. It was the difference in short five yard gains and long touchdowns and drives. Tackling may be the most basic part of football, but it was the Lions worst area Sunday. At Ford Field in favorable field conditions, this should be an easy area to correct for next week’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Execution

If you looked at the first half stats, Matthew Stafford had over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns. Calvin Johnson had 17o plus yards receiving to pair with two touchdowns. Unfortunately, most of that production came in the second quarter and neither player really did much pass that point. In fact, Calvin Johnson was shut out the rest of the game and Matthew Stafford didn’t have a completed pass in the fourth quarter going just 3-16 in the second half for 65 yards.

Defensively, the Lions pass rush was almost none existent, especially when you consider the Steelers inability to pass block this season. The linebackers missed on three “gimme” interceptions, two by DeAndre Levy and one by Stephen Tulloch, and the secondary was lost in their scheme a handful of times.

Next Game: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions

I’ve said it the last few weeks, the Bucs are closer to a .500 team then a 2-8 team. Coincidentally, many around the league might argue that the Lions aren’t as good as their record. In terms of the pursuit of the North title and just the pursuit of a playoff birth in general, this game is a must win. Winning keeps the Lions in first place another week and doing so against an NFC opponent adds to the tie-breakers that decide who makes and misses the playoffs.

The areas we’ve covered to this point needs to be addressed to get a win Sunday, but showing up for four quarters and jumping out to an early lead would go a long ways towards winning. The way the Lions start the game against the Bucaneers may determine if this team has really shed the “same Ol’ Lions” theme that we are all sick of hearing.

Come back next Tuesday to “Pursuit of the Crown” to see if the Lions made enough adjustments to win.

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Friday, Aug 2222 Aug7:30Jacksonville JaguarsBuy Tickets

Tags: Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford NFC NFC North