Sep 21, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) is tackled by Detroit Lions defense during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Can the Lions Win With Defense?
The Lions were able to beat the Packers with their defense. Had the Lions’ offense never scored a point, all else being equal, the Lions would have won by two.
Teryl Austin deserves tons of credit for keeping the defense playing at such a high level despite a seemingly devastating rash of injuries in the back seven. They actually appear to almost be playing better the more players they lose.
That’s great and all, but is that really a long-term strategy? It’s hard to imagine this Lions team grinding out their last 13 games in low-scoring defensive battles. At some point, they need the offense to reach even a fraction of what they showed against the Giants.
Is the NFC North Terrible?
Going into Week 3, the NFC North was locked in a four-way tie at 1-1.
Wins came against the Giants (1-2), 49ers (1-2), Jets (1-1), and Rams (1-2). Losses came against the Panthers (2-1), Bills (2-1), Seahawks (2-1), and Patriots (2-1).
What does all that mean? Not much at this point. This early in the season, it’s almost impossible to get a sense of who’s any good from record alone.
What we can say is that the Packers, the perennial team to beat in the NFC North, haven’t looked especially good in any of their three games, and could be 0-3 if not for a second half charge back from a 21-3 defecit against the Jets.
The Vikings are in rebuild mode, made more complicated by the Adrian Peterson situation, and the Bears are as erratic on both sides of the ball as the Lions.
There’s a lot more football to be played before we make any sweeping judgments, and there’s always the possibility that any of these teams (save maybe the Vikings) run off 8 straight wins later in the season. But with the small sample size of 3 games, it doesn’t look like any team in the NFC North is going to be an odds-on Super Bowl favorite.
Is the Offensive Line’s Problem just injury?
There’s no question the Lions need LaAdrian Waddle back at right tackle. With backup Corey Hilliard out for the season, third backup/emergency free agent signing Garrett Reynolds got pushed around for the entire game, seemingly blowing more blocking assignments than he made.
Reynolds was eventually replaced by undrafted Kansas State rookie Cornelius Lucas, who picked up where Reynolds left off.
But while it’s easy enough to blame the line issues on injury, the Lions have had pass protection breakdowns and difficulties opening run lanes all season, whether Waddle was in the lineup or not. That pressure isn’t just coming from the right side.
The Packers were able to bring more consistent pressure than most on Stafford, holding him to a pedestrian 22 of 34 for 246 yards with two interceptions and a fumble in the red zone.
But the big issue all season for the Lions has been a stunted run game. Even against the Giants, when the Lions scored 35 points and moved the ball seemingly at will, they averaged an abysmal 2.5 yards per carry.
To the team’s credit, they were able to use the ground game to ice the Packers in the fourth quarter. Reggie Bush’s 26-yard touchdown run put them up by double-digits. On the ensuing possession, the Lions were able to bleed the last 6:54 off the clock with a drive that featured almost exclusively rushing plays (the exception being a screen to Golden Tate).
Is that a sign of future success, or just a sign that the Packer defense was worn down?
If I knew that, this wouldn’t be a question.