The Detroit Lions once again found a way to fall way behind to an NFC South opponent, and this time, it happened far from home. By the time the clock had expired, though, the result looked nearly the same for the Atlanta Falcons in London as it had for the New Orleans Saints in Detroit.
Despite sleepwalking through most of the first half behind an offense without healthy bodies let alone an identity and a top defense that was getting pushed around, the Lions managed to hang tough, clean up their errors, make a few scores, get a key turnover and have a chance to win late.
Suddenly, it seems the only thing Detroit needs any more is a chance. With a pair of clutch catches from Golden Tate and Theo Riddick, the Lions moved into field goal range. They traded key penalties with the Falcons, but stunningly, Detroit’s field goal false start proved helpful, as it provided Matt Prater with another chance to win the game after slipping his first attempt wide right.
Perhaps shockingly, Prater made good on his mulligan from farther and started the party. Detroit had bagged a successful international hunt by a score of 22-21, and left the Falcons scratching their heads.
The Hunt Report has finished its tea and crumpets, and is ready to go inside a major comeback victory.
Depth Due To Injuries Was The Biggest Problem. Not only did Detroit have to play without Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Brandon Pettigrew, but they lost Nick Fairley during the game as well, and were already without LaAdrian Waddle along the offensive line and Joseph Fauria an Eric Ebron at tight end. Without C.J. Mosley in the fold, Fairley’s loss was a major problem for the defensive front. Somehow, though, other players stepped up along the way. Corey Fuller had a big game, as did Riddick, and Caraun Reid stepped in, as well as Jason Jones. Many of Detroit’s problems likely came from the fact they were essentially plugging new players in at plenty of key spots.
That Didn’t Excuse Detroit’s Play Early, Though. Most of the first half, the Lions were sleep walking, going through the motions, making errors and finding a way to fall behind. The start was frustrating from the standpoint that it seemed the Lions had forgotten what time the game began. Perhaps it was adjusting to new surroundings, or finding a way to deal with all of the new players plugged in at different spots. Either way, Detroit was badly out of synch early and it nearly cost them in the end.
Jim Caldwell Should Have Coached More Aggressively. Instead of kicking a field goal with the Lions knocking on the door with a short field, Caldwell should have tried to punch the ball in on fourth down. In the end, everything worked out for Detroit, but the result could have been more disastrous for the team due to this simple error in aggressiveness. If the Lions don’t score, they still play a field position game with a Falcons team who had struggled to move the ball in the first half. It would have been nice to see Caldwell trust his offense and defense enough to allow the team a chance at punching in a huge touchdown.
Let’s Hear It For The Poise. For the second straight week, the Lions refused to say die in the second half, something that’s becoming somewhat of a theme for this edition of the team. When it comes time for a defensive stop or big turnover, Detroit seems to find a way. When it comes time for offensive execution, despite struggling at times, the group is there to answer the call. It’s giving these Lions a definite feel of a team of destiny, considering they have been depleted and still found a way to be amazingly successful.
Wembley Stadium’s Terrible Turf Needs To Go. Before the NFL even thinks of relocating a team to London, they need to work out some major issues with the Wembley Stadium groundskeepers. Most of the afternoon, the turf was terrible, ripping up in huge chunks making footwork an issue for everyone. Though the Lions didn’t deal well with the early condition setback, teams shouldn’t have to wear special shoes to play on the field. Something needs to be examined and fixed in the future before players gets seriously hurt.
Lions? In addition to Tate, Riddick and Fuller, give Matt Prater credit for making all of his field goals, including the one that eventually won the game. Ziggy Ansah continues to be a terror off the edge and made some big sacks. Also credit little-known Cassius Vaughn for turning in this week’s big play from the secondary, something that’s becoming a routine occurrence.
Lambs? Garrett Reynolds had a tough day, and made two consecutive penalties which nearly gutted an important Detroit drive. Rashean Mathis also made his share of mistakes in coverage, and was penalized twice. New tight end Kellen Davis didn’t make an impact either.
What About The Key Matchup? Entering this game, it was said it would be important to watch Joique Bell against Atlanta’s defensive front. For the most part, the Falcons negated Bell’s impact, as the running back only collected 39 yards on the ground and did not score a touchdown. Bell was extremely useful in the passing game, though, collecting 22 yards on two big screen receptions late.
Number To Note: 151, the number of yards Golden Tate had of Detroit’s 325 yards through the air. Without Calvin Johnson and everyone else, the world knew the Lions would be leaning on Tate, and he still delivered in a big way during a second half. A long touchdown into his arms turned momentum on a dime for a second straight week, and a wonderful catch with time ticking away helped set up the Lions victory march. What a signing by Detroit. Quietly, Tate might be the most important Lions’ player the rest of the way.
He Said It: “We’re a band of brothers linked to each other for life” —Ndamukong Suh. That quote pretty much says it all about Detroit’s mindset this season. In the past, the Lions played as individuals brought to the field by a team game, but this season, they play as a team and seem to largely disregard the individual impact. Statements like that can only fuel the hope of a brand new day for Lions’ fans.