Tackling is Important
Sep 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) carries the ball as Detroit Lions outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) and outside linebacker DeAndre Levy (54) defend in the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Okay, so this isn’t a new revelation. It’s football fundamentals. And despite a generally strong defensive performance, the tackling wasn’t generally good against the Jets.
Things worked out for the Detroit Lions in their 24-17 win, thanks in large part to some bad Geno Smith decisions and a number of key drops. And 17 points allowed is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of as a follow-up performance to holding the Packers to 7.
But in the second half especially, there were too many Jets running through tackles, especially running east-west. Those plays resulted in a good chunk of Jets yardage (calling Chris Ivory), and won’t cut it against higher-octane offenses. Wrap-up tackling should be a focus in practice this week, though it remains to be seen how much this might become an issue with Stephen Tulloch out for the season.
Luckily, the Lions have the Bills and Vikings for their next two games… so the high-octane offense thing isn’t likely to crop up anytime soon.
Also, the Packers just hung 38 points on the Bears, so the fact that the Lions held them to seven probably wasn’t a result of the Packers losing their offensive spark. Probably.
The Ground Game is a Weakness
Sep 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21) carries the ball as New York Jets cornerback Antonio Allen (39) tackles during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Lions won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
It’s pretty easy to trace this back to the offensive line, and the blame there isn’t misplaced. But the passing game was actually effective, with Stafford posting perhaps his most efficient game of the season (the season opener against the Giants is the only alternative). More on that in a moment.
The Lions rushed for only 88 yards in this game, which isn’t an insulting amount by any means, unless you consider the Lions played most of the second half in ball-control mode.
Unlike last week against Green Bay, when the Lions were able to go power-run in a four-minute drill that took about seven minutes off to end the game, the Lions struggled to bleed this game out, until a brilliant naked bootleg play call that resulted in this (shameless Twitter self-promotion alert):
The Lions did have some nice sustained drives, but many of them continued because of great short-medium passing plays that converted 3rd-and-8 and such situations. Which brings us to the next point:
Golden Tate Fits the Offense
Sep 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate (15) carries the ball as New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) tackles in the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, the Lions have the complement to Calvin Johnson they’ve been searching for. The one Titus Young was supposed to be. The one Bryant Johnson (!!!) was supposed to be. The one Nate Burleson was sometimes, before he disappeared for three games.
Tate led the Lions with 8 receptions for 116 yards in a game where Calvin Johnson was limited. That’s “limited” in a “knife at a gunfight” kind of way.
Tate wasn’t the same kind of downfield, double-coverage-demanding threat Megatron is every week, but that’s not what the Lions want from him.
Tate caught two passes over the middle over the field, missed a tackle or two, and broke off gains of 35 and 23 yards. Those were on 3rd-and-4 and 2nd-and-14, respectively.
In the third quarter, Tate pulled in a bobbled pass for 11 yards on 3rd-and-10. That kept the Lions from going 3-and-out deep in their own territory, immediately after the Jets had cut the game to a touchdown. That took the crowd out of the game, and sparked a 90-yard, 8-minute touchdown drive that ultimately made the difference in the game.
In short, Tate kept drives going, and was machine-like in his ability to gain yards after the catch. That was the difference in the game, when Johnson played only a small fraction of snaps and caught two passes for 12 yards.