For those struggling with a last-minute nickname for the Detroit Lions, a new suggestion is coming into play: just call them the mythbusters.
In the second straight week, the Lions once again looked prepared to cough away a big opportunity. Even though the playoffs had been clinched, the team was doing just enough to fall behind against the Chicago Bears. Penalties, bad quarterbacking play and turnovers helped conspire against the team. Even a missed field goal came into play.
Then, the mythbusters pushed through to the other side in the only way they knew how in 2014. Despite all the problems, the Lions got a late touchdown from Joique Bell and enough defensive stops to prevail in Chicago 20-14. They didn’t lose to a bad quarterback. They didn’t collapse down the stretch in December. They didn’t even let penalties and mistakes doom them, nor did they get complacent despite already maintaining a playoff birth.
Consider these usual Detroit football myths officially busted with another successful hunt. The Lions are on their way to a late season showdown with the Green Bay Packers where the biggest could be busted, but first, the Hunt Report examines a nice road win in Chicago.
When Healthy, Joique Bell And Reggie Bush Are The Best 1-2 Punch In Football. All day, the Chicago defense struggled with how to contain both Bush and Bell. Early, it was Bush on screen passes out of the backfield and runs, and later, Bell came through with the hammer to pound away later on. Both scored huge touchdowns and made critical plays for the offense, and each looked good. When healthy, it looks as if the duo is certainly the best duo in the league. Detroit can pound away with Bell and slash away with Bush, and when both get going, it makes it hard for a defense to adjust to the unique style each maintain.
Jeremy Ross Shouldn’t Be Handed The Punt Return Job In 2015. Ross has struggled this season returning kicks and punts in total, but Sunday, he made his most massive mistake that could have cost Detroit in a big way. Instead of stepping away from a punt late in the second quarter, Ross moved closer and let the ball drop off his helmet. Chicago recovered and quickly scored. It was a mental mistake someone with the experience of Ross cannot make. The Lions have to keep an open mind about the return job next season, and might need to consider an upgrade. Ross hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been nearly as steady as expected, either.
The Offense Still Has Miles To Go. The Lions got off to a good start, but were unable to achieve much offensive flow. The line struggled at times to protect, and big plays were few and far between for Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, both of the top receiving targets. Matthew Stafford made some poor throws and decisions, and returned to his mysterious interception-tossing ways. All of this was enough to leave Joe Lombardi and company a bit frustrated. Detroit did plenty well, but nothing outstanding. It’s the one variable which could hold them back should they need to survive any type of shootout in the playoffs.
Elite Defense Wins Championships, And Detroit’s Is No Exception. Whatever the Lions lacked again on offense Sunday, their hard-hitting, stingy defense certainly helped cover thing up once more. It’s becoming a welcome theme this season. Though the Bears did get in the end zone, it was largely due to a few mental mistakes by Detroit. Other than that, Clausen moved the ball, but the Lions stiffened when they needed to and got the key stops to help drive a big road win. As the regular season pushes to a close, it’s obvious the Lions’ defense is a group good enough to win a championship. Whether this becomes an elusive NFC North crown and then something bigger, finally Detroit doesn’t look like a paper tiger. They have a group that can do some serious damage.
Lions? In addition to Bush and Bell, credit the big eaters up front, specifically Cornelius Lucas and Larry Warford, for having elite games. Defensively, James Ihedigbo had another excellent day
Lambs? Matthew Stafford had a rough day, and Detroit had the botched play by Ross and several bad penalties punctuated by a helmet-to-helmet hit by Ziggy Ansah, but the team did well to largely stay out of the negative during the clutch road win. Throw Jimmy Clausen into this category for his juvenile antics late in the game after a personal foul hit.
What About The Key Matchup? Coming into this key late season road test, we said it would be critical to watch Bears’ quarterback Jimmy Clausen going up against the Lions’ pass rush. Chicago knew how important that match up was, because they had Clausen doing plenty of quick drops, slants and fast passes. The quarterback never held the ball long in the pocket, thus he was rarely touched and only sacked twice. This rendered the key matchup essentially a moot point by day’s end.
Number To Note: 6, the number of rushing first downs the Lions collected. With Bush and Bell both looking healthy and capable, the Lions didn’t struggle to get their yards on the ground Sunday, or pick up first downs. For a team that likes to throw the ball around as much as Detroit, the fact that the team rushed for 138 total yards and collected a decent amount of first downs on the ground is a big deal. They’ll need to maintain this balance in the weeks ahead to make serious playoff noise.
He Said It: “I’m just happy to be back there out with my guys, my teammates, helping them win this game.” -Reggie Bush. It was a powerful return for Bush, who accounted for 98 total yards and a touchdown, and also seemed to feel invigorated by the return. Bush also had a key catch and run to his credit early in the game, setting the Lions up for a big early score. With the top runner back healthy, the Lions’ offense could gain some teeth in the weeks ahead.