There has to be an unsettling taste with the Detroit Lions after their latest performance. Losing 48-45 to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4 hurt enough. But surrendering dominant stat lines to quarterback Geno Smith and crucial big plays to running back Rashaad Penny were absolutely crushing.
Detroit got some impressive offensive performances in the loss but struggled immensely on the defensive side. The Lions are currently No. 1 in the NFL in total points scored but the historically bad defense is hampering them tremendously.
This is Detroit's final game before the bye week hits their schedule. On paper, they have just about every logical argument to why they should beat the New England Patriots this weekend. Unfortunately, they had a lot of that same reasoning against the Seahawks but still went home with a loss.
Regardless of the circumstances, the Lions have no space to take any teams on their schedule lightly. If they're looking to find their second win of the season, they'll need these three Lions at their best this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Here are 3 Detroit Lions who need a standout performance for a Lions’ victory:
1. RB Jamaal Williams
The Lions are currently No. 6 in the NFL in rushing averaging 164 yards per game. While dealing with the absence of running back D'Andre Swift due to a shoulder injury, the rushing responsibility is heavily placed on the production of veteran Jamaal Williams. The sixth-year running back has impressed as the feature back totaling six touchdowns and averaging 4.5-yards-per-carry this season.
Detroit is still limited with many injuries to their skill position starters. Swift is not expected to play along with wide receiver D.J. Chark. The other starting receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds are listed as questionable while nursing ankle injuries.
While quarterback Jared Goff has been steady and impressive this season so far, the Lions should not be relying on him heavily with his receivers being hurt. The Lions need to shorten the game as much as possible by leaning on the run game. New England is allowing a gashing 135.8-yards-per-game on the ground. Detroit's best chance at a victory is to tire out this defense with the run game using Williams and even backup Craig Reynolds as a factor.
2. Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn
Detroit is at the very bottom of the league with the most points allowed on the defensive end with 35.3-points-per-game. If there is any game they should be able to turn their production around, it should be against this Patriots offense being led by rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe.
This responsibility doesn't lie specifically on one player or one specific defensive group. All eyes will be focused on the scheming and game plan of defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
Lots of mistakes made last week against the Seahawks seemed due to a lack of discipline and bad play-calling. The defensive line was beaten repeatedly by misdirection handoffs and over-pursuing with bad angles to the ball. Linebackers were out of place in unfavorable alignments against the run as well as pass coverage. Plus the secondary lining up in compromising positions allowed the Seattle receivers to dominate all game.
It's way too early to put a coach on the hot seat, but Glenn cannot afford more performances like last week. Detroit can match up with the weapons of the Patriots just fine. They're also being coordinated by one of the most confusing choices of an offensive coordinator and one of the most hated names in Detroit sports history; Matt Patricia. This should be favored for a bounce-back coaching performance for Glenn.
3. TE T.J. Hockenson
The first-round tight end made an appearance on this list last week against the Seahawks. With limited targets available for the offense due to injury, Hockenson turned out career-high numbers off of 8 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Last week was the first multi-touchdown game of Hockenson's career and he was a huge reason why the game stayed close.
Week 5 is not a time for Hockenson to rest as he is heavily needed again in the offensive attack. Consistency has been a concerning issue throughout his entire tenure as a Lion. His presence was felt each quarter and half last week and that needs to be the same story against the Patriots.
It should not take another career-high performance for Hockenson to be a factor. If the Lions properly lean on the run fist, capitalize on red zone opportunities and scheme him correctly to get open to move the chains, it should greatly benefit Detroit.
The Patriots also present a fierce pass rush featuring linebacker Matthew Judon and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr who each have four sacks on the season. Hockenson's presence will be very important in providing pass protection, blocking in run support, and using him against mismatches against coverage. Detroit needs a big do-it-all performance by Hockenson to find a Week 5 victory.