Well … what can you even say about this game this week? In a word the Detroit Lions were lifeless against the New England Patriots. Whether it was a lackluster run game, an aimless passing attack, or very bendable defense, there was nothing that went right for the Lions on Sunday. It was bad, bad. So how in the world do you write a “Highs & Lows: Detroit Lions” piece after such a travesty? Simply put, one keyboard stroke at a time, but it won’t be easy.
I swear, as I was watching that game Sunday, Dr. Strange had used to Time Stone to transport me back to a time when the Detroit Lions weren’t only inept on defense, but offense as well–like under Matt Patricia. This was not “the best offense in the NFL” this week, they were entirely exposed. The Defense, too, was better but not great. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a bad dream, the hope is that this branch of the timeline gets destroyed as quickly as possible.
What are the Highs & Lows: Detroit Lions Week 5?
If you can’t feel it by now, trying to find any type of silver lining from this game is about as easy as accepting John Walker as the new Captain America. But, alas, here we are needing to dig deep and look around, for some type of hope (on your left!).
At the end of the day, the Detroit Lions are 1-4 in a season where some believed they could potentially challenge for the postseason; that was ambitious, but debuting on Hard Knocks and tid-bits from the media laid the foundation for what has become very lofty unmet expectations. So let’s trudge through the muck and mire of this disgusting performance and discuss some Highs & Lows for the Detroit Lions in Week 5.
Pretty obvious lows in the blowout loss to the Patriots
There is really only one place to point when talking about the Lions loss to the Patriots and that is the offense. Okay, there’s two: Dan Campbell should be blamed as well. Look, we know the defense is bad, but they actually played better than they had the previous week. The offense this week, which came into the week flying high, was literally grounded against the Patriots.
The Lions offense left too much to be desired in Week 5-
Alright look, when you’re averaging 35 points per game and that leads the NFL through Week 4, you absolutely cannot lay a goose egg in Week 5. But, that’s exactly what the Lions offense, led by Jared Goff did on Sunday. Goff led a paltry attempt to even score a point against a defense that by nature wasn’t that good. There was zero life, especially after getting stopped on 4-and-1 on your first drive, which was set up by three bad plays. Look at the documentation below, with my “coaching notes” on them:
This play was a designed stretch play, which usually gets a defense to overcommit and allows for the running back, in this case Justin Jackson, to cut back for a sizeable gain. But, if a cut back is not there, it’s not there! Jackson decide to put his foot in the ground and cut to the right of his tight end who is locked up with Matthew Judon, instead of continuing the stretch where there was plenty of open field. The Lions decided to throw a quick screen to Kalif Raymond on the next play which went for negative yardage and left them with a long 3rd down and this result:
I’m not going to blame Jared Goff for one play, especially one where he scrambled for five yards, but needed six. But this sequence of plays led to a demoralization of their offense and did not set the game off on the right foot. Could Goff have gotten the first down here? Maybe, but definitely not when you run out-of-bounds short of the marker. This directly led to a fourth-and-one, where the Lions actually got creative:
Okay, so let’s set this up: fourth-and-one, opening drive. The Lions go with a heavy set, and utilize Jamaal Williams as a fullback and called a fullback dive. The alignment of the Patriots here actually sets up well to pick up the needed one yard. But as you can see, Logan Stenberg did not get off his chip block fast enough to get to Ju’Whan Bentley (#8), who crashed hard and stuff the play in it’s tracks. This wasn’t a bad decision by Dan Campbell or Ben Johnson, just poor execution of a play that is an odds on favorite to get you one yard.
It all went down hill from there. Stuffed on fourth-and-one, New England grabs the early lead, then Goff proceeds to throw a costly interception in the red zone on the ensuing drive. Then, attempting to escape another broken pocket, fumbled, and the Lions were down two scores. The wheels kept spinning and eventually fell off as the Lions were shut out for the first time since Matt Patricia’s last game as their head coach.
Dan Campbell’s decision-making process is broken
Here we are once again talking about how a decision our coach made directly impacted the result on the field. He owned it before and seemed to get better against the Seahawks, but there really seems to be an aggressive-to-a-fault default setting for Dan Campbell when it’s fourth down. All the other decisions, except the second quarter’s fourth-and-nine, was the right call. But that fourth-and-nine is exactly the problem here.
Let’s think through this for a second: it’s fourth-and-nine, you’re down only 6-0, and your defense had just stopped their offense after your quarterback threw a horrendous red zone interception. You’ve driven a bit, but stalled out after a seven yard loss by your running back on third down. You were still technically in field goal range for your new kicker, Michael Badgley. Yet, Campbell decided to try his luck, gambling with the outcome of the game. A score of 6-3 is a lot better than a score of 13-0, which is what it became.
Campbell has got to find a way to limit the aggression, especially in crucial parts of the game. Aggression is good, and the Lions have converted multiple fourth down attempts this season, but that isn’t a hall pass to just continue to always go for it on fourth down. Situations have to dictate decisions, especially within the flow of the game. Campbell should be wearing this one too, but this decision took his team from a one score deficit to a multiple score deficit on a day when points were going to be hard to come by.
Not much to be too High on this week for the Lions
This is going to sound like a cop out, but I promise it isn’t. What good was there during this game? The defense improved, but still gave up 22 points. We’ve already discussed how bad the Lions offense was and we can’t even look to the coaches to say, “job well done.” so we won’t.
Here’s the best thing to come out of Week 5: the Detroit Lions are on a bye week in Week 6. This isn’t the typical, “I don’t have to watch the Lions, thank God it’s a bye week,” but more of a, “this team needs to get healthy” bye week.
It’s not an excuse, but a reality. When you talk about the opportunity to get healthy over a Bye Week, it’s the best thing that can come out of a 29-0 thumping. This team needs its firepower back, it needs its guys back and the Bye Week will help with that.
There are other adjustments that need to be made as well during this week off, but getting healthy should be the priority. The attention will turn to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7, but until then we think about what could’ve been in the Lions Week 5 loss to the Patriots, hoping and wishing we see massive improvements when they step on the field again.