Detroit Lions passing game shows true colors in loss to 49ers

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports /

After a failed come-from-behind attempt on Sunday, one big story is finally seeing what would happen with the Detroit Lions passing game. Ladies and gentlemen: welcome to the Motor City dink and dunk offense.

Well into the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers, zero Lions wide receivers had a reception of more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Then, being down by 24 points, Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff finally started to throw the ball down the field and take deep shots against the 49ers.

This passing offense clearly goes through tight end T.J. Hockenson. While many may have known that, it was officially confirmed on Sunday. After Hockenson, it’s all about the running backs out of the backfield and on screen plays. Running backs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams combined for 16 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown.

In fact, Hockenson, Swift and Williams each had eight receptions for the game. Then, once the comeback was on, a wide receiver finally had a reception of more than 10 yards down the field, but none finished with more than three catches.

The Lions’ passing game showed its true colors against the 49ers.

While the stats for number one wideout Tyrell Williams could have been different if he hadn’t left the game early, the true colors of this passing offense have been shown. Five-yard out routes happened early and often. Underneath check-downs became so regular that it made fans wonder if Goff even looked down the field before settling for the short throw options.

Goff’s play might lead to Detroit’s big decisions come next year’s draft, but it might be skewed simply due to the offensive game plan. Fans can only hope the team isn’t playing from behind and forced to throw downfield to catch up. Ideally, one of these young Lions receivers can become a legitimate deep threat to stretch out the opposing defense. Otherwise, it’s check-down Motor City.

Lions fans might be used to the deep ball from former quarterback Matthew Stafford’s strong arm. Until a current Lions receiver helps Goff feel more comfortable unleashing the deep ball, opposing defenses won’t need to worry about preparing to defend it.

The good news is the arrival of Williams has helped spark the running game that was clicking early in the game before the team fell behind. But these two running backs along with Hockenson will be getting a lot of work in this offense. It will take broken tackles, like we saw from Swift, for bigger plays to happen as the wide receiving corp develops.