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What the Detroit Lions need to address after they return from their bye week

NFC North Division

Every week is crucial in the National Football League. A team will take a win no matter how it comes about. That concept happened for the Lions on Sunday afternoon. The Lions did some things well, but the Green Bay Packers beat themselves more than the Lions playing better football than them.

Though Detroit caused three turnovers, they still may have not won the game if  Packers kicker, Mason Crosby, who is one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history, didn’t have the worse game of his career missing four field goals and a point after attempt in their 23 to 31 loss. If he hits those attempts, Green Bay would have headed home with a 36 to 31 victory.

The Good Offensively

A huge factor in winning football games is taking care of the football. The Lions had zero turnovers on 57 total plays of offense against Green Bay. Almost half of their snaps on offense were Stafford throwing the football. He did not have his most accurate game, specifically the deep ball opportunities. He only completed 14 throws out of 26 attempts, with two touchdowns. His first touchdown to Marvin Jones Jr. put on display how strong his arm is where he threw an absolute rifle on a dig route in the back of the end zone. There are not many quarterbacks in the game today that have his arm strength.

NFC North Division
Image courtesy of Detroit News

Kenny Golladay is turning into a Pro-Bowl wide receiver right in front of Detroit fans’ eyes. He was an absolute steal in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-4, 213-pounds, who runs a 4.5 40-yard-dash, he is tough to defend every down. He can line up outside or in the slot and present different challenges for opposing defenses. There is not a route that he can’t run. His catch radius is exceptional, too. He is no Calvin Johnson, but he is quickly becoming Stafford’s favorite target. He was targeted last week nine times, but only was able to connect with Stafford four times, for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Once again, the run game did exactly what it needed to do, balance out the offenses passing attack. Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount showcased both their running styles on Sunday. Johnson’s ability to make people miss and explosiveness to turn the corner, combined with Blount’s hard-nosed, one-cut, north and south style of play, was tough for Green Bay to stop. Blount did not light the stat sheet, but he still had two short-yardage touchdowns in the red zone to provide a spark in that area of the offense. That’s what he came to Detroit to do.

Efficiency in the red zone is crucial to a teams offensive success. Detroit was 4/4 on Sunday. If that continues, their chances of winning will go up significantly each week.

The Bad Offensively

No offensive performance is ever perfect. The Lions racked up 264 yards of total offense. The pass protection gave up three sacks, but got Stafford hit a total of five times on 26 pass attempts. The pass pro was not awful, but there were multiple times the running backs missed their blocking assignments on the second level blitz from the Packers.

Third down was also an issue for the Lions on Sunday. It is unrealistic that every 3rd down is going to be converted by an offense, but close to 50 percent conversion is what is needed to win on a consistent basis. The Lions converted 38 percent of their 3rd downs last week. Not a putrid percent, but a percent that needs to be slightly higher to have more scoring chances each week.

The Good Defensively

NFC North Division
Image courtesy of packersnews.com

The Lions got off the field on third down against Aaron Rodgers and company, which was a tall task to do against the caliber of quarterback like Rodgers. Green Bay converted only three times on 10 third down plays. Getting off the field and putting the ball in an offense that is firing on all cylinders right now is a formula for success.

For the first time this season, too, Detroit kept a team under 100 yards rushing on the year. A trend that Lions fan can only hope to stick when they return to action in week 7 against the Miami Dolphins on the road.

Any good defense prides themselves on forcing turnovers. Matt Patricia and his defense were able to cause three fumbles that put the Lions in excellent field position to capitalize on. The question remains: can they force turnovers every week? At their bye week, they sit with 10 turnovers, which puts them in the middle of the pack in the NFL.

The Bad Defensively

Another week has come and gone where Lions fans watch the teams opposing quarterback just sit in the pocket and scan the field for five to seven seconds at a time due to zero pass rush from anybody on the front seven. Though the Lions sacked Rodgers four times, it was because he held onto the football for too long looking for someone to throw to. Of course, the Lions defense cannot be blamed for Rodgers hanging on to the ball that long, it’s the fact that it takes them more than five to six seconds to get a sack. That will not lead to long-term success on Sundays.

The secondary of Detroit finally ran up against a team that exposed their lack of pass rush by putting almost 450 yards in the air. There is not one secondary in the NFL that can consistently cover for six to seven seconds every down and see success on defense. The Lions need to get healthy up front with Ezekiel Ansah and Kerry Hyder Jr. being part of the mix of pass rushers soon.

It is clear right now that rushing four cannot get to the quarterback. To get the best out of their pass rush, the Lions need to stick with man-to-man and take the pains that come with it, then either do more twisting or slanting up front, or bring more second-level defenders to get after the quarterback.

If this problem on defense does not get addressed, Detroit will finish last in the division and will win no more than 7 games in 2018.

 

Featured image courtesy of Detroitlions.com

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