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received the ball to open their divisional match up against the
on the road. Their first drive couldn’t have went any more on script than it did, with Stafford hitting every pass he threw and “
” Theo Riddick finally breaking out some with a long 42 yard screen and a 9 yard receiving TD. The offense continued to move the ball with Riddick and Tate doing most of the heavy lifting early.
Most of the off-season was spent hyping up Theo Riddick, but the second year running back has been largely ineffectual despite opportunities in the Lions depleted backfield. Riddick has been hampered by a hamstring injury that seems to be lingering, but it’s games like these that justify all the preseason hype he was getting. Riddick broke at least four tackles in the first half, but it is Joique Bell who would finish out the game as Riddick left with another hamstring injury. Bell struggled early in the game, but came on strong once he stopped hesitating and starting hitting. It was good to see the old Joique Bell back, as he’s been having issues with injuries and effectiveness so far this season.
Defensively the team continues to look like the best defense in the NFL. Their first drive lacked gap discipline resulting in a few decent Jerick McKinnon runs and a long reverse by Jarius Wright where coverage nearly completely broke down. They came through when it mattered, however, with a pick in the end zone by Glover Quin and a sack by Ziggy Ansah to finish the Vikings next drive off. Ansah has been all over Teddy Bridgewater, who doesn’t know what to do with all the pressure from Ansah and Suh. They ended the day with three interceptions and a plethora of sacks narrowly missing on their first shutout as a team since September 29th 1996.
The kicking game continues to struggle despite the addition of Matt Prater, who missed his first kick from 50 yards. It bears mentioning that the NFL average percentage of kicks outside of 40 yards is 43% while the Lions are at 77% on the season, but it’s still a concern. Prater would prove that he was still worth it by nailing a 52 yarder at the end of the 2nd quarter to give the Lions a larger lead going into the half. He would miss another off the uprights later, and the team is likely hoping this is only knocking off the rust from being away from football for so long.
While the defense is dominating the line of scrimmage and the secondary is doing their job, the same cannot be said for the offense. Joe Lombardi is struggling to find something that works outside of that first drive, and while Stafford has been making good decisions he struggled to find his receivers. Golden Tate even dropped a pass, which almost never happens. Their second half scoring drive was phenomenal, but outside of those two drives they struggled mightily as a unit.
All in all, this game felt suspiciously similar to last week at halftime, with the exception of being a much cleaner game. The defense continues to do what they’ve been doing, but this offense needs to step up big time. Matthew Stafford is showing poise, but it’s much harder to get a first down when you’re starting at 1st and 20 due to a penalty nearly every drive. They seemed to clean up those penalty issues in the second half, but the offense was still struggling, especially on third down.
Tahir Whitehead proves to still be a special teams ace, forcing a fumble on a late punt in the 2nd quarter, but numerous penalties from both sides led to a re-kick. Later, he would legitimize himself on defense with an interception to keep the Vikings from putting any points on the board going into the half, then another in the 3rd quarter on a tipped pass. Sam Martin is probably the biggest special teams weapon the Lions have, as he’s been able to flip the field every time he touches the ball, giving the team good field position. On a related note, Sam Martin has the best punting average of any Punter in Lions history (more than 5 punts)…by two full yards.
The story of this game was pressure and that Detroit Lions front were monsters all game. While Ndamukong Suh did his fair share of work, the Game Ball for Week 6 goes to defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Ansah was a terror for Matt Kalil all day, as predicted pre game. Even knowing that Kalil was struggling, few could have seen just how disruptive Ansah was going to be, ending the game with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Honorary Mention to Tahir Whitehead whose two interceptions smothered the Vikings momentum and Glover Quin whose pick in the end zone kept this game a shut out for 3 quarters.