Same old Lions. It’s a mantra that pundits have hauled out of their closets every time the Detroit Lions lose a game, or win a sloppy one. Without even trying to, the Lions have completely flipped the script on the national perspective.
In what was poised to be a shootout between two weak defenses and two strong offenses, it was instead a play-calling clinic by Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and textbook execution by a patchwork defensive back-end. Instead of the Lions’ dangerous offense breaking out, they legitimized their defense’s previously excellent performance and put themselves on the national map.
Matthew Stafford did not have his best game against the Packers. While his first pick was entirely on Corey Fuller, who had both hands on the ball, it’s rare a QB can throw two costly interceptions and still win the game. Aside from the picks, Stafford was just a little off with many of his passes during the game, showing that there are still some adjustments that need to be made.
Even with the three turnovers, Stafford distributed the ball well. So much improved from last week where he keyed in on one receiver, Stafford was trusting the scheme more and getting the ball to the players that were open. There were only a few instances where I felt Stafford made the wrong choice and while he wasn’t perfect this is a good sign for the coming weeks.
Bell Sputters, Bush Soars
I’m not sure what’s going on with Joique Bell. While I’ve been more critical of the third year Lion than most, Bell has never had much problem finding the hole and hitting it hard. Three weeks running, he’s left yards on the field. He secured the ball against the Packers, but he took the wrong hole on several occasions and it just didn’t make much sense. The blocking wasn’t stellar, but Bell has usually made the most of plays even when the blocks aren’t there. Not against the Packers.
Instead, it was Reggie Bush who found the most success, slipping through holes and running surprisingly well between the tackles. Bush sealed the game with a vintage Bush run off the left side that went for 26 yards and a score. We finally got a good look at Theo Riddick, who was able to come in and make magic with the ball in his hands. He should see an increased role as the season progresses.
The Beard Unleashed
An easy choice for game ball this week, DeAndre Levy was on a completely different level than even Detroit Lions fans are used to seeing. He seamlessly transitioned to Mike after Stephen Tulloch injured his knee and managed to play BETTER even though his headset wasn’t working and he was basically playing blind. Most outside of the Lions didn’t consider Levy a snub for the pro bowl in 2013, but it would be a crime the way he is playing if he was left off this season. It’s not just a pro bowl level, but an All Pro level.
Calvin Gonna Calvin
So that Calvin Johnson guy, he’s pretty good. Johnson had a stupid drop in this one, bringing his season total to three, but aside from that was his normal Megatron self against the Packers. Though he was kept out of the end zone due to some wonky play-calling by Lombardi, Johnson is obviously benefiting from the added targets given to Golden Tate. Matthew Stafford is damaging Johnson’s catch rate by throwing to him in situations he never should, but as long as Calvin continues to make the plays he makes it will never matter.
Tate Gonna Tate
Yes, he deserves his own mention. Tate made plays when it mattered and continued to be the sure handed, tackle breaking YAC machine the Detroit Lions haven’t had in…ever. Lions need someone to catch something underneath and make something happen? They’re not completely reliant on their running backs to do so. Need someone to make a catch with one man to make miss? Tate can do that, too. Tate is one of the most underrated free agent acquisitions in the NFL.
It’s big enough that the Lions finally have a strong #2 receiver to pair with Calvin Johnson; but they went ahead and built themselves quite the receiving corps. Jeremy Ross proved that yes, the Lions need to find ways to get him the ball. Like Tate, he’s adept at making people miss and getting yards after the catch, and he continues to impress on special teams.
Corey Fuller had an ugly drop that proved costly as it was picked off early in the game, but made up for it with a beastly 52 yard deep pass. Those types of receptions were once reserved for Calvin Johnson only, it’s good to see someone else able to take the top off. Teams are going to see that pass and pay attention to Fuller when he runs deep.
The Lions have always had veteran leadership. Jim Schwartz always ensured there was a vet on hand to keep the younger guys on track and keep everything in order. That seems to have completely reversed under Caldwell. While yes, there are still veteran leaders like Calvin Johnson and Rashean Mathis, the unquestioned leader of the secondary? Darius Slay.
Surprisingly, the role of leader of the defensive line has been taken by none other than Nick Fairley. What Schwartz couldn’t do in three seasons, motivate Fairley to be ‘that guy’, Jim Caldwell seems to have done in a single off-season. Lions have quietly built a youth movement, which bodes will with the scheme changes that were implemented.
Freese is Done
The Detroit Lions decided to draft Nate Freese because John Bonamego saw something he thought he could fix with Freese’s mechanics. It doesn’t seem to have worked, however, as Freese made the cardinal sin of missing a mid range kick in a dome. Coach Caldwell’s comments at half time did not sound promising for the rookie and it’s very likely he played his last game for the Detroit Lions.
Coming into this game as the second ranked defense in the entire NFL, the Detroit Lions may come out of week 3 as the top defense for the first time since 1965. Who was leading that defense? Why, Dick Lebeau, now 77.
The Lions haven’t had a top defense in almost 50 years, yet here we are watching them completely dismantle the best quarterback in the NFL. Even more amazing, they are doing so with their 5th nickelback, third right tackle, a converted free safety at strong safety, and their second SAM linebacker.