Breaking down some of the major questions the Detroit Lions will look to answer in the coming weeks, after dropping below .500 with a third loss in a row.
After staying undefeated for the first three weeks of the season, the Detroit Lions have hit a rough patch. With losses in the last three games and few answers for why a team that seems so much better than last year isn’t playing that way yet, here are six tough questions that the team faces as the month of October is suddenly coming to a close.
Question 1: Is passing ‘the eye test’ enough evidence to suggest signs of progress?
Strictly from watching the games, the Lions ‘look’ like a better team than their record. There are plenty of talented players on both sides of the ball, the defense is forcing enough turnovers, the offense is taking care of the ball, and they’ve been competitive start to finish in every game. So why hasn’t all of this added up to a 4-2 (minimum!) record then?
Even more disappointing is the fact that the 2018 team was actually in better shape through six games than the current one. A year ago at this point, the Lions had a dominating rushing performance to steamroll Miami on the road for their third win in four games. Losers of three straight currently, the run game is back in its traditional shambles, half the defense went out injured at some point Sunday, and the division race is already slipping away in mid-October.
With that said, the team does look better than a year ago, though the numbers don’t back it up at this point. Looking the part obviously isn’t enough, but at least it’s enough to warrant hope for the next part of the season, as the schedule finally appears to be easing up over the next month.
Question 2: Would it be best to unleash the old Stafford at this point?
For whatever reason, the run game still isn’t working. Again, and again, and again. Darrell Bevell was going to be the guy to fix it, but with only 56 net rush yards against Green Bay and 81 against the Vikings, Detroit’s ground attack finds itself back in the bottom half of the league.
We’ve seen this literally every year of the past twenty, so that in itself is really not a big deal. Looking at the current state of things, it’s hard to picture a massive improvement in the next few games either. Power back C.J. Anderson was cut after only two games and feature back Kerryon Johnson went out with another knee injury. Rookie Ty Johnson isn’t ready for a heavy load of carries yet, and J.D. McKissic is good for some great plays in flashes, but clearly not as a feature back. This puts Darrell Bevell in a position that he doesn’t exactly want, but seems to be coming to grips with.
Matthew Stafford is off to his best start to a season since 2011, so maybe the best move right now is to go back to the old days and a pass-heavy attack, at least until Kerryon is back at 100%. Stafford has thrown for nearly 300 yards a game so far, with 13 TDs and only 3 picks. He’s coming off his best game of the season, so why not go all in with what’s working? With an ailing run game and a defense that is struggling to put any pressure on opposing QBs, another 5,000 yard/40 TD year from #9 might be what’s needed to save the season.