Forgive fans of the Detroit Lions if they’re not used to seeing a dominant defense helping lead the way for an offense that does just enough to win. Throughout the years, that hasn’t been the case in the Motor City.
Six games in to the 2014 season, it’s clear that it is now. The Lions outmuscled the Minnesota Vikings behind eight sacks and a sweltering defense that prevented Teddy Bridgewater from getting his team on the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter. When he did, it was already too late thanks to a pair of touchdowns. Detroit put the screws down and won 17-3.
For the second time, a road hunt was an overwhelming success. What helped contribute to this near landslide victory? Here’s some thoughts about week six’s victory over an NFC North foe.
Maybe Detroit’s Kicking Is Cursed. This week, the Lions did hit a 52 yard-field goal, but around that, they missed a 50 yarder as well as a 44 yard attempt. Going 2/3 wasn’t great for new signee Matt Prater, but it was just enough to keep the game at a distance. It seemed that afterwards, conditions were more to blame than anything else with tricky wind gusts at TCF Bank Stadium. The first kick had a high snap, but other than that, there was nothing else to blame but the usually accurate Prater himself. Maybe Jason Hanson has cursed the position.
Tahir Whitehead Earning His Stripes. After paying his dues on special teams, it’s nice to see linebacker Tahir Whitehead getting into the act on defense and making some big plays. Sunday, he was in the right place at the right time twice, catching a pair of deflections for huge interceptions. Both picks helped squelch a small bit of Minnesota momentum, as the Vikings had started moving the ball. Whitehead also led the team in tackles. The big plays are a long time coming for Whitehead, and a nice thing to see for a hard working player.
Getting Ziggy With It. All day, Detroit’s defensive effort was led by a ferocious attack by Ziggy Ansah, who cleaned up 2.5 sacks on Teddy Bridgewater. Most impressive were the three quarterback hits Ansah registered in addition to three tackles for loss. All of this came in spite of Ansah being notably gimpy on the sideline. Detroit’s second year man has elevated his game, and is certainly continuing to look like the next pass rushing terror in the NFL.
Offensive Line Woes. It was another bad afternoon for the Lions’ offensive line, the second in as many weeks. This Sunday, they gave up four sacks and rarely gave Matthew Stafford a chance to get his feet set and make confident throws in the pocket. This caused Stafford’s day to look a bit worse statistically than it usually does for the second straight week. Somehow, the Lions have to get the problem ironed out. Without time, Stafford looks like a below average quarterback.
The Chronicles Of Riddick. Before an unfortunate hamstring injury ended his day, Theo Riddick was capably playing the Reggie Bush role for Detroit’s offense early, catching passes out of the backfield and looking shifty while doing so to the tune of 75 yards and a touchdown. Even though injury slowed the show, Riddick looked like the difference maker he was talked up to be during the offseason for Detroit. Hopefully for the Lions, the injury is nothing serious because finally, Riddick looked to be coming into his own at the right time.
Lions? Give Joique Bell credit for coming back and running hard all afternoon which led to a significant touchdown late. Defensively, give the entire defensive line a game ball being they pressured the pocket all afternoon and forced the quarterback into bad decisions. Glover Quin also gets a shout out thanks to a key interception early.
Lambs? Put the entire offensive line in this category after their rough afternoon in protection. Additionally, Golden Tate would likely admit he didn’t have his best day caching the football. Obviously, wind or not, Prater’s erratic kicking from distance was a problem, as well.
Significant Battle Wounds: Though Ziggy Ansah was solid, he was shaken up a bit and appeared to be limping. Otherwise, Riddick’s hamstring proved to be the most troubling injury of the day, in addition to Brandon Pettigrew leaving early with an apparent leg or ankle injury. James Ihedigbo also left and was getting checked out on the bench. Check the injury report for those names this week.
What About The Key Matchup? Coming into this game, it was written the key matchup would be Stafford going up against the Minnesota secondary. Though Stafford didn’t have any interceptions, he didn’t have the most efficient game either, and rarely had time to throw in the pocket. When he did throw, the passes were off target and wide much of the time. Stafford wasn’t the reason Detroit lost, but he was hardly the reason the team won, either.
Number To Note: 2, the number of third down conversions the past two weeks that the Lions have collected. Last Sunday, they were 1/11 and this week, 1/13. Those are awful margins which help an offense stay stagnant. It shows the impact that Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush have in being able to help Detroit move the sticks consistently. Without them, Matthew Stafford has struggled to find a consistent target on third down. He’ll need to find a way if they’re out for yet another week.
He Said It: “The guy’s got a great track record, we feel good about him.” —Jim Caldwell. When asked about the kicking, Detroit’s coach faulted wind gusts as a major reason for Matt Prater’s few early misses, but did credit Prater for nailing a long field goal to add to the scoring. Forget about another kicking change this week, though, as Caldwell hinted that they’re prepared to stay with Prater and are confident in his abilities throughout.