The New York Jets have been no slouches on defense, but the question was always whether their offense could face the Detroit Lions’ suddenly tough defense. As it turns out, no they could not. The Lions dominated time of possession against the Jets, most notably on a 14 play drive that was capped off by a Matthew Stafford rushing TD that took half a quarter off the clock.
The Detroit Lions are now 3-1 in sole possession of first place in the NFCN (The Packers defeated the Bears as well). Optimism is the new norm in Detroit and this coaching staff have done wonders turning this team into a real contender. The Detroit Lions beat the New York Jets 24-17.
Matthew Stafford has been dictating the Lions games since he became their signal caller in 2009. As he goes, the team goes. Against the Jets, he was on point nearly all the time, spreading the ball around and making audible after audible, picking apart the Jets defense. He wasn’t perfect, with a couple of under-thrown passes, but on a day where Calvin Johnson was limited mostly to decoy duty, Stafford made the offense work. He was efficiently splitting touches among the receivers and taking a cool mix of risky and safe throws.
Taters Gonna Tate
Golden Tate had to step up big with Calvin Johnson’s injury and unlike Lions receivers in years past, he was able to pull out a doozy. With the pressure on, Tate was ready to take the ball and literally run with it, getting most of his yards after the catch and making some important catches to move the chains. He is on pace for more than 1,000 yards as the Lions #2 receiver, and has been owning that role since day one. He ended the day with 8 catches, a career high, for 116 yards.
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The Detroit Lions running back corps has been considered one of the strongest in the NFL with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell headlining. They had reasonable depth as well, with Theo Riddick pulling #3 duty and two FBs. They leave the New York Jets having won, but with only two of their five backs healthy. Starters Reggie Bush and Jed Collins are still good to go, but reserve FB Montell Owens is dealing with a lingering injury and is joined by Theo Riddick and his hamstring.
Joique Bell has been struggling this season, but he seemed to hit his stride against the Jets by hitting the holes harder than he has all season. Sadly, he suffered a concussion in the second half and didn’t see the field again. The Lions have some options at RB with George Winn on the practice squad, which should excite some fans.
Defense Bloodied, but Holds
The Detroit Lions defense came into this game as one of the best in the NFL, along with the New York Jets. It wasn’t looking very good for the Lions defense as they had a solid punch in the mouth by Chris Ivory on the Jets first possession. It only ended in a field goal, but Ivory almost managed the Lions season average in rushing yards on just the first drive.
The New York Jets weren’t able to capitalize then and they weren’t able to capitalize on the Lions struggles either as the Lions held them to three and outs on each of their next five drives. They would keep the Jets out of the end zone most of the game, but gave up one more big run to Chris Johnson in the 4th quarter that made it a one score game.
Slay Earns His
Darius Slay has been playing at a pro bowl level all season. He had his roughest drive of the year in this game against Eric Decker, allowing a couple of catches for good yardage and giving up a big pass to Greg Salas when he tried to go for the strip instead of the tackle. He ended the drive by giving up his first TD of the season to Eric Decker, but he would come back to pick off Geno Smith soon thereafter, his first career pick. Rashean Mathis deserves a mention as he played very well once again, but Slay needed a big play to get his name on the map. His clean interception of Geno Smith and long return (Oh boy, he is fast) should do the trick.
Jeremy Ross has been an excellent returner for the Detroit Lions. Against the New York Jets, he legitimized his play as a receiver with a long TD where he took the top off the defense, took the ball, and ran. The pass was slightly under-thrown, but Ross had beaten his coverage so soundly that he was able to come back to the ball and run with it anyway.
Ross didn’t have as good of a showing in the second half. My concern with Ross has always been whether or not he could make the right decisions on kicks and punts and that decision making issue reared its ugly head against the Jets. Ross took out two kicks from the end zone where the Jets coverage was excellent, and both put the Lions in bad field position. He’s still a young player, but it’s time like those that remind us that there’s room to grow.
There wasn’t much bad in this game, even though the score was a lot closer than it should have been. The Lions overcame injuries to their best player in Calvin Johnson, their entire RB corps, and their continued secondary woes, but still pulled out a pretty convincing win. Against the top rushing defense in the NFL, and even with the injuries, the Lions pulled out better than their average numbers rushing.
Even with Reggie Bush closing out the game, they were able to look strong doing so. The defense had a ‘poor’ game, but only by their present standard of excellence, and it was only the second half where they struggled. The Detroit Lions may actually win their defense and go to the playoffs this season, and they’ll likely do so on the back of their strong defense, but their offense started to really come together in this one and could be a scary, scary team in the very near future.