After the Detroit Lions were sleepwalking through the first four weeks of the season, Sunday's game in Philadelphia brought some familiar themes back. The Lions seemed disinterested with the first three quarters, but somehow, despite a 10 point road deficit, found a way to tie the game and steal a huge win in overtime. There were big defensive plays, some clutch offensive performances and tidier special teams. This hunt was successful and clutch at the same time.
What are more thoughts from win number two of the season?
Penalties Are (Still) A Huge Issue. The reason Detroit even had to come back was the absurd amount of silly penalties, 16 for 132 yards to be exact, that the team posted today. There were the usual bevy of senseless personal fouls, drive killing false start and holding calls and even a few pass interference calls mixed in. The Lions can't continue to make these mistakes early in games and expect to contend. They got lucky to come back and eliminate mistakes late, but there were still far too many juvenile errors. If the team is serious about winning, this must change. Jim Schwartz talks about penalties during the play being semi-allowable, but plenty had nothing to do with the play at all this afternoon. Something has to be said about this.
The Defense, Specifically The Line, Elevated Their Game. Michael Vick was never comfortable in the pocket today. Outside his one touchdown on a blown coverage, rarely did Vick have time to set his feet in the pocket and make good throws. The Lions batted balls down, shoved Vick, got in his face and made him uncomfortable. They recorded three sacks and hit Vick 11 times. The secondary stepped up, and grabbed two huge interceptions. In overtime, the Lions defended the best, keeping Vick on the run and preventing the Eagles from moving the ball. These are the plays that had been lacking early in the season from Detroit's defense.
Matthew Stafford Still Isn't Feeling It. Yet another slow start for Stafford almost spelled doom for his Lions today. There were overthrows, underthrows and even a terrible interception which was a result of a bad decision. In the fourth quarter, the Stafford of last year showed up again, throwing accurately on the move and extending the play. Still, he must start games with more consistency early. It was remarkable that the Lions were able to survive despite a less than stellar offensive effort early on. That's a tribute to Stafford staying patient and their defense. Hopefully, Stafford can build on the fourth quarter performance next week.
The Running Game Was Finally An Asset Today. Detroit's 138 yards were more than Philadelphia's 71. The Lions also were able to soften coverage for their receivers by keeping the Eagle defensive front honest with some productive runs. Mikel Leshoure ran well, and Joique Bell did too when called upon. You're seeing things start to round into form. When Jahvid Best returns, expect the ground game to look even more imposing.
Louis Delmas May Be The True Heart And Soul Of The Defense. Today, things looked more organized with Delmas returning from knee surgery. There weren't as many breakdowns, whiffs in coverage or confusion. The unit played more inspired from the first kick, and looked more comfortable with run defense. This can be attributed to Delmas, who looks like he was missed more than many people would like to admit.
Late Sunday, There Might Have Been A Switch Flipped. From first half to second half, the Lions looked like the determined team they were much of 2011. A light bulb may have finally been turned on with regards to offensive and defensive execution. Finally, the team looked ready to compete, and the clutch comeback was impressive given the tough environment and dire circumstances. If Detroit loses, 1-4 isn't pretty. This win could help light the spark this season.
Lions? Calvin Johnson came up huge late with plenty of big catches. Cliff Avril was a terror all day, and fierce off the edge with two sacks. Delmas, as mentioned, played fantastic in the secondary. We'd also be remiss not to mention Jason Hanson, who's clutch kicking was huge.
Lambs? Two offensive linemen draw the distinction today. Godster Cherilus and Jeff Backus both had silly penalties. Cherilus had a personal foul, while Backus was called for false start two times. These mistakes aren't the key to the Lions' offense turning things around moving forward, and two veteran players need to be much better.
What About The Five Things? Coming into this game, we said it would be wise to watch and see if Detroit's defense could come up with a big play. They had several this afternoon. The Lion receivers did step up their game, as Johnson had a big day, the tight ends were good and Nate Burelson pulled in an important touchdown. Special teams didn't have any noticeable breakdowns and did decently. The offensive line, minus penalties, did a decent job and the running game was solid. Philadelphia made plenty of turnover mistakes, aiding in their loss.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Chicago Bears are up next on Monday Night Football. The game begins next Monday night at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
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