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Highs & Lows: The Detroit Lions lose to Minnesota Vikings

Alright, it’s been a day; more than 24 hours to collect thoughts on the Detroit Lions and rightly analyze just what took place in Minnesota on Sunday. The Detroit Lions gift-wrapped a divisional road game for the Minnesota Vikings in the most asinine stupid ridiculous same ‘ol Lions way. Two double-digits leads blown, poor clock management, a QB who cannot threaten the outer hash marks beyond ten yards, I mean what else is there to say? Ultimately, the Lions dropped to 1-2 (0-1) on the season and now have to set their sights on the Seattle Seahawks.

So we turn to the Highs & Lows for the week. Though it may seem very cynical at the onset of this article, there were some highlights, the offensive line leading Jamaal Williams and Jeff Okudah. However, the lows definitely shone brighter: Dan Campbell’s inability to manage a game and Jared Goff’s inability to threaten downfield. Let’s start with the bad and then move to the good.

The Lows: Dan Campbell and Jared Goff

Alright, one is obvious, I get it. But you’re going to have to stick with me on the Jared Goff call. Goff’s numbers look okay on the surface but we’re going to deep dive them a bit. Dan Campbell’s decision-making will be torn apart next.

Jared Goff just isn’t “that dude”

As far as stop-gap quarterbacks go, Jared Goff can be serviceable. However, any inclination that he is “the answer” or “the future” of the Detroit Lions has got to be put to rest immediately. Now, the grandeur of trying to acquire Lamar Jackson may only be wishful thinking, but there isn’t a reasonable person who could sit and say that Jackson wouldn’t be an upgrade times 1 million over “Captain Checkdown” (trademark pending).

On a very surface level, the box score doesn’t look terrible for Goff: 25-41, 277 yards, 1 TD, 1INT. But let’s move Beyond the Box (wink, wink), and really look at this performance by Goff.

A.J. Reilly and Eric Vincent host Beyond the Box every Monday night at 7PM Live on all social media channels

Goff was graded out by PFF.com as the 12th best offensive Lion on Sunday against the Vikings. That seemed strange. I mean, he played so “well,” right? Well, he did in the first half: 17-24, 179 yards and a touchdown. But the second half? 8-17, 98 yards, and a pick. Woof.

But we can go even deeper than that. Look at this passing breakdown by PFF:

Jared Goff Passing Direction Breakdown from PFF.com
Photo courtesy of PFF.com

Jared Goff is really good when he doesn’t have to throw the ball over ten yards. And other than one single pass completion in the second half, on the final drive of desperation, he didn’t toss the ball downfield more than twice in the second half. Now to add more salt to the wound, notice all the zeros on the outside parts of the hash marks? Yeah, there are a ton of them because Goff does not get the ball downfield enough to be a threat. He’s completed a total of 15 passes over 10 yards this season, in 35 attempts–and, is only 6 for 19 when throwing outside the hashes over 10 yards. The inability to stretch the field will be the Achilles heel (sorry Tracy Walker) for the Lions this season.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Derrik Klassen from Football Outsiders:

Whatever admirable underdog nature the Lions had about them through the first few weeks of the season has worn off. After a certain point, the team has to show they can win a game or two. Detroit’s biggest issue has been their stopgap quarterback Jared Goff only continuing to get worse as the season rolls along. Goff was never going to be the future, but he is playing at a level that even makes it hard to evaluate the rest of the offense. Blend that together with a defense that just does not have quality players and this is where the Lions have arrived as a franchise.

Derrik Klassen, Football Outsiders

One more nail in the coffin so we can finally put this to rest for good: of all the quarterbacks that have a minimum of 80 dropbacks this season, Jared Goff has the 25th-best passing grade as a quarterback. Look, I’m no genius, but when the likes of Carson Wentz, Davis Mills, Geno Smith, and Jacoby Brissett have a higher grade than you, well…let’s just say if the Lions want to win, it won’t be this year with Jared Goff.

Dan Campbell needs to hire a football decision-maker

Alright, this point has got to be belabored just a little bit longer. What in the world was Dan Campbell thinking on that fourth down call? Again, I’m no genius but I’ve played my fair share of football and even coached a little here and there, and of all the choices he had at that moment, he chose the worst and absolutely wrong one.

Up until that point, Campbell’s decision-making was spot on as far as his fourth-down calls, but when it came down to it, he quivered. If nothing else, at least put this chart in your nifty laminated sleeve, Dan, for reference:

Detroit Lions lose
Photo courtesy of Malter Analytics

Facing a fourth-and-three from the Vikings’ 37-yard line, and needing a first down to secure the win there were three choices that Dan Campbell had:

  1. Go for it; you were 4-6 on fourth down and averaged 5.5 yards per play.
  2. Punt the ball with all-pro Jack Fox
  3. Ask your kicker to kick and career-long 54-yard field goal ( <– DON’T PICK THIS ONE!)

I mean, honestly, what good did a field goal do there? It only put you up six points so a touchdown still beats you. This may go down as a decision as bad as “we’re taking the wind,” like Marty Mornhinweg in OT.


Now, at least Campbell owned up to his mistakes. At a certain point though, we’ll need to see some actual adjustments instead of just facing the music after a terrible in-game decision. And, I’m not even going to get started on the clock management in the fourth quarter. Simply put, Dan Campbell has got to be a better decision-maker. The rah-rah, and all the talk of “grit” will not win you football games, making better in-game decisions will. I still love Dan Campbell and think he’s the right guy for this job, but he’s got to improve as a coach.

The Highs: Jeff Okudah and the run game

Okay, so it wasn’t all bad. There were some definite bright spots for the Detroit Lions in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings. These won’t be too long because, well the Lions lost, but the highs for the Lions were the Offensive Line, who played quite well, and Jeff Okudah, who is coming into his own as a former top-5 pick.


Jeff Okudah is playing like a former #3 overall pick

Coming into this game Jeff Okudah was going to be tasked with covering arguably the best receiver in the game: Justin Jefferson. Okudah was the main man in coverage on Jefferson for 4 of his 5 targets in the game. Those targets only yielded 2 catches for 9 yards. As a whole the secondary did a pretty good job on the day, minus Arman Oruwariye, who graded out at a bysmal 27.1 according to PFF.

For a career that has been plagued by injuries and lofty expectations, Okudah has been refreshing to see on the field in Honolulu blue this season. It is nice to see him bouncing back and seemingly unaffected by that Achilles injury he suffered last season. He grades out well, but will definitely need to continue to work through the conditioning that will be required for a 17-game season.

The Lions Offensive Line is quite good

When you have holes on your line due to injuries, and can still rush for four yards per carry, you have the strength of your offense. We knew this though, right? Coming into the season they were considered the best unit on the team and tops in the NFL, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. But now that they are missing pieces on a seemingly weekly basis and still able to do what they do, outstanding!

Add to this that Jamaal Williams took over the lead-back duties as D’Andre Swift left with an injury and still kept pace, all due to the upfront guys and their domination. Now, with Swift going to be missing some time, the Lions shouldn’t have to worry about who is toting the rock because the big fellas up front can handle anyone. This bodes well for the Lions, who clearly won’t be able to rely on the passing game (see above), and will need to grind teams to a halt by continuing to run the ball as often and effectively as possible.

There you have it, the Highs and Lows for the Detroit Lions giveaway loss to the Minnesota Vikings this last Sunday. Nothing we say, type, or complain about will change the outcome but maybe can make it just a touch more palatable. The Lions will take on the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday and hopefully get to .500 on the season.


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AJ Reilly
AJ Reilly
A.J. is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid storyteller. His debut novel, The Askren Boys, won the Literary Classics Gold Medal and Seal of Approval in November of 2018. When not writing, he is spending time with his wife Jessica, son Jack, daughter Nora, and new arrival Teddy. A.J. lives in Metro Detroit.

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