What's the matter with Matthew Stafford?
The Detroit Lions quarterback got off to a hot start until he was hit on his arm by Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram, resulting in an interception by Kyle Emanuel. Stafford returned to the game with a sleeve on his arm, which apparently had the power to make him forget how to quarterback. He didn't look the same for the rest of the game, throwing an extremely poor ball for another pick and nearly made it a hat trick on their last drive, which was fortunately not fully controlled by the Chargers. Stafford did wind up converting that last chance for a Theo Riddick touchdown, but it was too little, too late.
The defense should be concerning
All offseason we heard from nearly every sportswriter about how the Lions defense was going to take a huge step back because of all the players we lost on the defensive line. For the first quarter, the Lions defense made them all look foolish. After forcing a 3-and-out to start the game as well as some great pressure from Ezekiel Ansah, the line looked like they didn't miss a step from last season. Philip Rivers responded by moving up and down the field with ease, going 35-for-42 and 404 yards, with Keenan Allen tying a Chargers single-game record with 15 catches for 166 yards. The linebackers looked confused. It would have been an even bigger loss without 2 interceptions from the Lions secondary. It was not a pretty sight and not something that one DeAndre Levy alone can fix.
The offensive line is still a work in progress
The Lions were without Larry Warford and the offensive line struggled to protect Matthew Stafford for most of the game. Some nice blocking from rookie Laken Tomlinson aside, the line collapsed quickly nearly the entire game and failed to pick up several blitzes, forcing their quarterback to make quick, uncomfortable decisions and getting him banged up in the process. The run blocking was not as egregious and opened up a few good holes for Ameer Abdullah to run through, but overall, the unit will need to improve, especially in pass blocking.
Play-calling and penalties
Perhaps all the praise and ‘future head coach' talk about defensive coordinator Teryl Austin went to his head because there were some very concerning defensive play calls. Austin was also apparently unable to counter the Chargers' halftime adjustments because, well, check those numbers on Rivers and Allen again. The most baffling was calling a blitz on third-and-19, when holding the Chargers to a minimal gain and field goal would have still made it an eight point, one score game with plenty of time for a final touchdown drive. Instead, a blitz left few defenders to stop Keenan Allen from getting the 19 yards needed to pick up the first down, which ultimately led to the game-winning touchdown.
Jim Caldwell shouldn't be given a pass either. Flashbacks of last year's playoffs loss came back towards the end of the third quarter as Caldwell decided to punt on fourth-and-one when his team was picking up steam and needed to hold the lead.
Speaking of that punt, there wound up being a penalty on it. It wasn't the first. The Lions defense was fooled by Rivers' hard count twice in third down situations, which gave the Chargers free first downs. This is absolutely something that needs to be corrected.
What about all the good stuff?
I could probably keep going on about the bad stuff (and trust me, I could) but that's not really fair, and I'd personally like something to look forward to before next week's game, so let's talk about good stuff:
Let's all just remember how we felt after the first quarter for a second, shall we?
Ameer Abdullah: the guy is for real. He excelled in the running game, shaking Eric Weddle out of his boots for a touchdown. He caught passes and returned kicks and that burst ability. Is it getting hot in here? Based on today's game, he looks to surpass Joique Bell as the starter sooner than anticipated.
As lost as the linebackers looked Sunday, the secondary had a tough test with Rivers and came up with two interceptions that made what should have been a blowout appear close on the scoreboard. A heads-up play by Glover Quin on a tipped pass led to a pick-six, and Darius Slay's end zone interception kept the Chargers from gaining any ground before the half.
Circumstances weren't ideal, either. Temperatures reached 105 degrees on the field in the second half, and the Lions were on the road facing a very good quarterback with lots of good weapons and a strong defense - no small feat for sure. If there's a positive takeaway, it's that the Lions could have anticipated a loss, given those circumstances. It was HOW they lost that really hurts.