Early on, the Detroit Lions felt as if they could run away and hide against the Buffalo Bills. Problem was, they never improved upon their early 14 point lead, allowing the opposition to hang around just long enough.
The Bills stayed within striking distance, Detroit lost a few of their major offensive contributors and fell into a massive funk in the second half as a result. During crunch time, new kicker Alex Henery missed three key field goals from beyond 40 yards, including what could have been the game winner late. Buffalo, meanwhile, quietly stung the Lions with clutch plays.
Eventually, Dan Carpenter found himself with a 58 yard kick to win the game. He didn’t miss, helping former Detroit coach Jim Schwartz to a matter of revenge. A Detroit hunt failed for only the second time on the young season, but was no less frustrating.
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Stafford Not Money. There will be plenty of excuses, from Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush’s injuries in the second half to porous play by the offensive line, but the fact is, Matthew Stafford let the team down in the second half. Plenty of his passes were off the mark, and while he didn’t make a costly mistake, Stafford didn’t lead the team to victory with the game in his grasp. Elite quarterbacks often win in spite of madness going on around them and make things work with interchangeable parts. Stafford still hasn’t found that ability, and continues to look below average without some of his best players around him. That’s on the quarterback.
Winn Still Winning. George Winn was pressed into duty on Sunday with the loss of Joique Bell, and in his first “big league” start, did not look overwhelmed. Winn hit the hole well early, and at one point had more yards himself on the ground than the entire Buffalo offense. There’s no way Winn could have been expected to carry the load without Bush’s assistance, so when he started to falter it was likely because he was being depended upon too much. As a complementary piece, however, there is nothing to be disappointed about.
George Johnson Impressing. Since winning a roster spot in camp, Johnson has done nothing to detract from his value. In the first half alone, he collected one sack and pressured the pocket many times. Johnson also forced a key false start thanks to his aggressiveness. In the end, he finished with two tackles for loss. The Lions can find pass rushing from anywhere, including the free agency scrap heap.
Kicking Henery Out. Detroit’s kicking problems appeared temporarily solved with the addtion of Alex Henery, thanks to his one field goal in two tries last week. After two weeks, it appears that’s not the case. Henery missed again this time from 44 and 47 yards early, and 50 yards late, leaving the door open for the Bills to win. The worst part? Only one of the kicks was close, hitting the upright. The other two sailed well wide of the target. It’s time for the Lions to go in another direction again before kicking begins to cost the team even more dearly. Simply, the team is good enough to justify giving Henery the boot quick.
Orton’s Got Their Number. Forget all the platitudes that Kyle Orton was 4-0 against inferior Lions competition. Somehow, the Bills’ quarterback made all the key throws in the second half and found a way to wiggle his team to a win. As it was written this week, the only chance Buffalo had was an efficient game from their quarterback against a solid Lions’ defense and suddenly quality secondary. Again, Orton won that battle. He just has a knack for beating Detroit.
Still, The Defense Dominated. Credit Detroit’s defense for refusing to bend or break much Sunday afternoon. In the second half, with the offense failing them and putting the team in bad spots, the group rose up and kept the Bills from turning the close game into a blowout. The secondary had a few breakdowns, but didn’t get completely overwhelmed, and while Buffalo’s offensive line held up well, the line had pressure in Orton’s face a few times. Defensively, there wasn’t much to be frustrated about from a Detroit perspective, which was the good news in the late debacle.
Defensively, there wasn’t much to be frustrated about from a Detroit perspective, which was the good news in the late debacle.
Lions? Whenever he had the ball thrown to him, Golden Tate was outstanding, making the play which should have helped Detroit win the game late and pulling in an early touchdown. Defensively, there were numerous impressive players, but Glover Quin and DeAndre Levy played particularly well, with Levy being the leading tackler.
Lambs? Aside from the obvious choices, Henery and Stafford, Detroit didn’t get much offensively from Brandon Pettigrew, who only had 12 yards. It doesn’t seem fair to pick on any one member of the defense, considering what they were up against most of the day and how well they held up.
Significant Battle Wounds: From Calvin Johnson to Reggie Bush and Larry Warford in between, the Lions sustained several tough blows on Sunday. Warford was able to keep playing as was Darius Slay who jammed a finger early on, but the other two were not, remaining on the sidelines.
Number To Note: 80, the number of passing yards Detroit had from players not named Golden Tate or Calvin Johnson. It was up to Stafford to find some different targets, and he failed to do so. Moreover, those others who were targeted failed to deliver in key spots. Considering everyone who was out, it was easy to see why the Lions struggled to roll down the field, but Stafford still has to find a way to make things work with who he has. That just didn’t happen.
He Said It: “Anytime you leave points on the table in this league, it is bound to come back and hurt you.” —Jim Caldwell. Detroit left nine points on the table, to be exact, that should have been theirs when Henery missed the field goals. Caldwell said the Lions would evaluate the kicking position again this week. They’ll have to, because it remains a significant liability.