The Bengals are bringing a formidable pass offense to Detroit this week, but can the Lions’ secondary keep them in check?
The Detroit Lions defense has been equal parts bad and injury-hampered at various points through five weeks. In particular, some inexperienced guys have had to play in the secondary. Having the league’s 17th-ranked pass defense (251.6 yards per game) through Week 5 feels like a moral victory.
The Lions are 30th in the NFL in quarterback rating against (110.9), better than only the Indianapolis Colts (124.9) and Jacksonville Jaguars (115.5). But here’s what the quarterbacks they’ve faced over the last three weeks have done against them.
Week 3: Lamar Jackson-16-for-31 for 287 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 81.0 passer rating
Week 4: Justin Fields-11-for-17 for 209 yards, 1 INT; 82.7 passer rating
Week 5: Kirk Cousins-25-for-34 for 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 94.6 passer rating
Per Lions Wire, the 87.0 passer rating the Lions have allowed from Week 3-5 is 11th-best in the league. Facing a rookie Fields in his second NFL start is something to note, but Jackson and Cousins have had good runs this season.
In Week 5, Lions undrafted rookie corner Jerry Jacobs held Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen to two catches on three targets in his coverage. Both of those catches came on Minnesota’s drive in the final minute for a game-winning field goal, and but they were Thielen’s only two catches of the day and he was an absolute non-factor otherwise.
Jacobs played 94 percent of the snaps against Minnesota, while Bobby Price saw just three defensive snaps.
Can the Lions secondary hold down the Bengals passing game?
The Lions have the sixth-best sack percentage in the NFL through Week 5. In Week 6 they face the Cincinnati Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrrow, who is fifth in the league in yards per attempt (8.8) with a 106.4 passer rating (seventh in the league). Rookie wide receiver JaMarr Chase is off to a fantastic start (19.8 yards per catch, a league-leading five touchdowns).
In Week 5, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had over 100 yards in the first half before the Lions almost totally shut him down in the second half. Head coach Dan Campbell said the Lions have a plan for Chase this week.
“It’s a threat,” Campbell said. “However, we just came away from a threat, too. Jefferson was no joke over there at Minnesota. And we had a plan, and we’ll have a plan for him. It’s not gonna be easy, but our guys are gonna be ready to execute and we’ll have something to handle these guys.”
Besides Chase, the Lions also have to worry about Bengals wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. So holding the entire Cincinnati pass offense in check the entire game feels unlikely. But Detroit’s secondary is improving, with safety Tracy Walker also worthy of mention for his performance in Week 5. Another respectable showing against a good quarterback will help open the door for an upset on Sunday.