The Lions sit at 1-3 heading into week 5 because of a heartbreaking, last-minute drive the defense gave up the loss to the Cowboys last week. There are some good things to cling to if you’re a Lions fan, as well as some bad things that make the statement “Same Old Lions” come out of their mouth. There is much work to do, but Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are beatable if the Lions can follow the correct formula.
The offense for back-to-back weeks played very well. Quarterback, Matthew Stafford, was extremely accurate with the football completing 24-30, for 307 yards, and two touchdowns. He gave his receivers opportunities to get yards after the catch by allowing them to catch the passes in full speed stride on their routes. Stafford put his offense in the right plays all game when he needed to audible. Detroit’s offense is scary when Stafford is comfortable in the pocket.
The offensive line, though losing T.J. Lang to a concussion in the first quarter, still managed to play in sync for most of the game. Jim Bob Cooter’s offense is not built to run the football 30 to 35 times a game, but rather used more to balance the strong air attack of Stafford and his receiving core. As long as Stafford is the quarterback in Detroit, the Lions will always be a pass first team. If the offense can continue to get close to 100 to 130 yards a game on the ground like they have the past two weeks, they will continue to put up points every week no matter who they play. Inevitably helping the play-action passing game behind linebackers, and big play opportunities.
The Lions most explosive player is Golden Tate. What he can do with the ball in his hands is what sets him apart from most of the league. He hardly ever goes down on first contact because he will make the first defender miss. He is a smart route runner and extremely reliable target for Stafford. The Lions need to continue to find more ways to get him the football whether by more screenplays, underneath crossing routes, play-action deep crossing routes or on a jet sweep. He needs to be targeted and has the ball in his hands no less than 10 times a game
Matt Patricia’s defense is flat out terrible in Detroit. They hardly get any pass rush from their front seven, can’t control the line of scrimmage in the run game and can’t get off the field on third down. The Lions loaded the box with eight players to stop Ezekiel Elliot and still couldn’t keep him from dominating the game. The Lions have to get better production from their front four. If Ezekiel Ansah can play this weekend, that will help push them in the right direction.
Matt Patricia and his defensive staff need to find ways to get to the quarterback by considering more exotic blitz schemes by twisting or stunting the defensive line and bringing more second-level defenders. At this point, the Lions need to play aggressive, man-to-man defense whenever they are in passing situations to get a shot at sacking or hurrying the quarterbacks throw. Bringing no less than five is the only option for them defensively to get pressure.
Though middle linebacker, Jarrod Davis, got beat on the wheel route to Elliot late in the game because of a great throw by Dak Prescott, he is still the only player that has played consistently well throughout five weeks of play. He has excellent speed for a linebacker, he’s a punishing hitter and has great open field tackling ability. Linebackers are only as good as their defensive line. If Detroit can control the line of scrimmage, Davis will continue to dominate at the mike linebacker position all season.
It is also hard to get mad at the secondary for Detroit because they have to defend for five to seven seconds in coverage every time a team drops back to pass against them. NFL wide receivers are too talented to expect corners and safety’s to cover that long every snap.
Green Bay is built very similarly offensively to Detroit. They rely on Aaron Rodgers and their receiving core to move the football primarily, with the running game as a way to sublet their passing attack. They do not have the same talent at the running back position like Detroit does, but they are serviceable and get the job done.
If Detroit can constrict the pocket and not allow Rodgers to extend the play with his legs and rough him up a bit, forcing the Packers to run the football more and not give up any big plays, they will have a chance to win this game. However, If the front seven gives Aaron Rodgers a lot of time, he will have a field day against this defense. It will get out of hand quickly in Ford Field.
The Lions can still win the NFC North, but they have a lot to prove to the Lion faithful in order to make them believe in them.
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