The streak is over! No, not just the Detroit Lions’ losing streak, but the highly-publicized scoreless streak from a once-sputtering offense.
Despite falling behind early to the Chicago Bears by a pair of Alshon Jeffery touchdowns, the Lions roared back on Thanksgiving, going on a 21-0 run in the second quarter fueled by multiple big plays. Calvin Johnson collected two scores as did Joique Bell, and Detroit plowed ahead, assuring the team would have a successful hunt and fans across the Motor City would have some happy holiday meals.
With the 34-17 victory, the Lions sit at 8-4 and back in command of the NFC playoff race. The win helped boost postseason hopes in a very significant way. What else was noticed? The Hunt Report takes a break from turkey, stuffing and pies to dive into the details.
Theo Riddick Is A Big Play Waiting To Happen. Though Riddick didn’t gain any yardage on the ground, the versatile runner made an impact through the air, collecting 54 yards as the Lions’ third leading receiver. In the open field, Riddick continues to look explosive while playing the Reggie Bush role. A few times, big gains by Riddick helped set the tone for the Detroit offense. Working the ball into his hands is a good idea for the Lions, who need others than the usual suspects to help break open games.
Why Run The Ball At All? Detroit’s offense stalled early behind some play calling that was not creative. Joique Bell was smashed into the line and lost yardage, leading to the Bears’ first points of the game. Immediately after, the Lions took to the air and spread the ball around with quick passes and slants down the middle of the field. Suddently, moving the ball wasn’t so difficult for Detroit, nor were finding scores and big plays. Perhaps Joe Lombardi found something. Given Detroit’s offensive line issues, this should be the game plan in coming weeks. The Lions ended up getting two scores from Bell on the ground and ran the ball effective enough to win, but the team shouldn’t force the run if it doesn’t work.
Credit Detroit For Never Buckling This Week. Despite taking plenty of punches, Detroit’s offense and defense didn’t fall apart this week and punched back in a major way. Down 14-3, the Lions could have gone into their usual shell and given up. Instead, they chipped away, battled back and took control, getting the job done. The last two weeks, Detroit fell behind and couldn’t break out mentally or physically and find one big play to turn the tide. This week, no such problems occurred. The team and the staff should be proud.
It’s Worth Being Happy For Calvin Johnson. Finally, a big performance on Thanksgiving Day wasn’t wasted, as Johnson erupted for 146 yards and two key scores. Johnson has produced on Thanksgiving before amidst losses and never gotten the credit. Thursday, he won Phil Simms’ iron award, and took home the accolades for a big day. After years of personal frustration he’d likely never admit, it was a happy holiday for the Lions’ best player, who is hoping to give the offense a leg up with big plays.
Lions? In addition to Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, give Matthew Stafford credit for performing like an elite thrower, passing for 390 yards and two scores while looking extremely accurate. George Johnson played excellent on the defensive line along with Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah, and Glover Quin secured a key interception. Give Matt Prater credit for a clean afternoon, too.
Lambs? Detroit won on Thanksgiving for the second consecutive year behind some excellent individual performances. There’s no reason to single anyone out for playing poorly, and nearly everyone excelled by day’s end.
What About The Key Matchup? Coming in to the holiday battle, we said it would be important to watch the performance of Detroit’s offensive line against Chicago’s defensive line. Outside of some struggles on the first two drives of the game, the rookies passed the test with flying colors. If Matthew Stafford didn’t have time, he got rid of the ball quick. It was a heroic job by the offensive line given the changes they have undergone due to injuries
Number To Note: 3, the number of Detroit wide receivers that went over 50 yards through the air. Johnson, Tate and Riddick each turned the trick, and Jeremy Ross even got in on the act with a 31 yard reception to help flip field position. Stafford also worked in the tight ends, hitting them with five passes for 33 yards as well as the running backs, who collected eight for 70 yards. Spreading the wealth will help the offense look much better in the weeks ahead.
He Said It: “Whoever makes big plays on offense breeds confidence for the whole team.” —Calvin Johnson. Though Johnson was certainly the player making such plays for the Lions Thursday, there were numerous other impressive plays turned in from Tate, Riddick and even the defense, which helped a tidal wave of momentum overtake the Bears. Big plays are contagious, and if the Lions start to get them, it can help everyone feel better about themselves and confidence begin to take foot.