The Detroit Lions started their 2022 season with a tough 38-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a frustrating loss as the Lions definitely had a chance to win. However, the Eagles should contend for an NFC championship this year, so not all was doom and gloom for the team coming off a 3-13-1 season. This week, the Lions remain at home for a matchup against the 1-0 Washington Commanders. The Commanders added QB Carson Wentz in the offseason, and he delivered in week 1 with four TD passes in a come-from-behind win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the opposite records, the Lions are actually favored to win for the first time since November 2020. Here are the keys to the Lions getting to .500.
Detroit Lions: 3 Keys to Defeating the Washington Commanders
Jared Goff vs. the Blitz
Key Players: Jared Goff, D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams
The Commanders love to blitz and Jared Goff struggles against pressure. So, expect the Commanders to bring pressure early and often to try and rattle Goff to throw him off his game. If Goff gets happy feet, he is prone to making big mistakes like his pick-six last week. Goff will need to make quick decisions against the blitz and stand tall in the pocket. To help Goff out, the running backs will need to step up. D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams will be tasked with stepping up to block free rushers to prevent sacks. After a few blitzes, Swift or Williams can leak out of the backfield and make a big play on a screen pass. Goff and the running backs will need to step up against the blitz. If they can, Goff and the offensive playmakers should be able to pick apart a weak Commanders' secondary.
Finishing on pass rushes
Key Players: Aidan Hutchinson, Charles Harris, John Cominsky
Last week, the Detroit Lions were only able to get one sack against the mobile Jalen Hurts. That doesn't paint the full picture of the Lions' pass rush. The pass rush got into the backfield pretty regularly but failed to finish the play and Hurts escaped for big games. This week, the Lions should have an easier time with the less mobile Carson Wentz. Disrupting Wentz, and more importantly, bringing him down, will be key to stopping the Commanders passing offense. Wentz has talented receivers in Jahan Dotson and Terry McClaurin, but if he is constantly facing pressure, he won't be able to get them the ball. If they get enough pressure, Wentz will have to force the ball downfield which could lead to a costly interception. Similarly to last week, the Commanders have an incredibly talented receiver in McClaurin, so pressuring the quarterback should help the Lions' secondary greatly.
Stopping the short passing game
Key Players: Malcolm Rodriguez, Alex Anzalone, Tracy Walker, DeShon Elliot, Mike Hughes
The Commanders' offense revolved around the short passing game in week 1. They love to use running backs Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic and receiver Curtis Samuel on short, easy passes. Once the ball is in their hands, these players are incredibly shifty and can break tackles to move the ball down the field. Without a major run game, stopping the short passing game can stall out the Washington offense. Doing this will be a big test for the Lions' defense, especially the linebackers.
Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez should be tasked with stopping the running backs. They will need to prevent the running backs from getting major separation, but most importantly, the Detroit Lions need to secure the tackles in 1-on-1 situations. The other major threat is Curtis Samuel who gets the ball in all sorts of ways. Nickelback, Mike Hughes, and the safeties will have to bring him down in the open field, or his speed can create some huge plays. Likely, these players will grab a ton of receptions, but the key for the defense will be rallying to the ball and corralling receivers before they make a big play. If they do, the Commanders will be in a tough spot offensively.
For the first time in a long time, Detroit Lions fans should be confident that they should win a game. The Commanders aren't a pushover, but the Lions look improved enough to win at home. The real keys to the game come down to the two quarterbacks picked back to back, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Both quarterbacks have had rollercoaster careers with high highs and really low lows. Both game plans should revolve around making them both uncomfortable to force them into mistakes. Whichever QB is more comfortable and limits mistakes should lead their team to victory. The hope for the Lions is their improved offensive weapons make Goff's life easier than Wentz dealing with the young talent on the defensive end. If that's the case, the Lions should get their first win of the season.