Written by: JT Bowen
The Lions did exactly what they had to do — beat a bad team at home and temporarily preserve postseason aspirations.
It wasn’t pretty for much of the game. The running game was nonexistent, with Tra Carson (?), Ty Johnson, and Paul Perkins spearheading the attack. With popular trade target, Kenyan Drake headed to Arizona, it will be interesting to see how the Lions boost an area that they desperately need help in.
Additionally, the pass defense was disappointing, as rookie signal-caller came back from a rough few games with a 300+ yard, 4 TD game against an inexperienced, young Lions secondary. Sure, some of it can be attributed to Darius Slay’s absence, but the trade of Quandre Diggs also raises questions about how Detroit will consistently field competent starters on the back end.
The Lions, despite the too-close score, closed the game in victory, which is what truly matters coming off of three consecutive losses. A loss would’ve kept the Lions firmly in last in the NFC North and would’ve reduced the already-slim playoff chances. However, Detroit came out on top, evening out their record to 3-3-1 overall and jumped to third in the North, as Chicago continues to spiral out of control.
In spite of the incompetence shown in facets of the game, the contest had several bright spots — most notably the defensive line play. Much of the long-awaited breakout game can be attributed to the return of Da’Shawn Hand, whom I’ve already illustrated my belief in as a game-changer on this team. But signee Trey Flowers had a huge game, credited with seven pressures from PFF, two critical sacks, and a forced fumble that was barely recovered by Daniel Jones. Devon Kennard similarly had a solid game, with a heads-up fumble recovery for a touchdown early on. Additionally, the run defense bounced back nicely after being steamrolled by Dalvin Cook, largely keeping Saquon Barkley in check on the ground thanks to solid play from Damon Harrison.
For the first time this season, the Lions consistently blitzed, something they’ve been frankly awful at in the sparing times they’ve done it. Jarrad Davis, who has had an objectively dreadful year to this point, finally had a good game, shining and constantly pressuring Danny Dimes (terrible nickname) and blowing up plays in the backfield, even tallying a couple of decent plays in coverage. Overall the linebacker play wasn’t great, but Davis had the best day of the bunch, something that hasn’t been said this year.
And in what’s becoming a common theme, the passing offense was spectacular. Matthew Stafford advanced his Pro Bowl campaign with another outstanding performance sans an early pick, particularly excelling with Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola in what’s becoming a weekly roulette of which pass catchers(s) perform well. The protection was less than ideal, but Stafford had a great game regardless. He’s the reason the Lions are executing at the level they are on offense, and almost the sole impetus behind any success this year.
No longer are certain games ‘important’— because frankly, the Lions can't afford to lose any of them. Recent struggles have nearly erased any margin for error, as every remaining matchup on the schedule is crucial if the Lions want to make up ground in the playoff race. Right now, a wild card slot looks like the Lions’ most likely route to the postseason, with the Packers soaring at 7-1 and the Vikings right behind at 6-2 should Green Bay start to crumble. The NFC is undoubtedly stacked this year even at the wild card tiers, with formidable squads like Seattle, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, and the Lions will probably need to win 7 of their last 9 games if they want to contend for a wild card spot.
This Lions’ year is far from over. Things are clearly not favoring Detroit currently, especially in regards to making the playoffs, but the Lions will need to clean up errors, get healthy, and win crucial games if they want to keep this season alive. Winning against New York was a good start, but a tougher slate begins with an away game in Oakland, a notoriously difficult place to play, facing a better-than-record-conveys Raiders team.
As the trade deadline nears, it will be interesting to see if the Lions are players, especially with Kenyan Drake and Leonard Williams off the market. Darius Slay’s name is repeatedly tossed around, but Detroit appears to be requesting a king’s ransom for the top-3 corner, and will likely not budge unless they get a sizable haul. Melvin Gordon is the most intriguing option that the Lions might seek to acquire, given the volatility in Los Angeles at the running back position and the Lions continued incapability to generate a ground game. Only time will tell what moves (or lack thereof) Detroit will make to boost their roster for the back half of this season.