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5 positive takeaways from the Lions’ Thanksgiving Day loss to the Vikings

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We’re all in need of some optimism right now.

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Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions lost what could have been a turning point in the franchise’s history. Detroit could have finally taken the reigns in the division and headed into the final month of the season with a real path to a division title.

Instead, they lost to the Minnesota Vikings, eliminating any realistic shot that 2017 would be the year the Lions finally won the NFC North. There’s still an outside chance of it, but Detroit needs an incredible amount of help along the way.

It really puts a damper on your Thanksgiving Day, a day in which we’re all supposed to be in good spirits and giving thanks to everything positive in our lives.

So I’m here to help turn your Thanksgiving Day around. Here are five positive takeaways from the Lions 23-30 loss to the Vikings.

The run defense was way better

The Vikings could not run the ball all game against the Detroit Lions... well, almost the entire game. To come out of the second half, the Vikings had a four-play, 75 yard drive—all runs—that made the Lions defense look like the one of old.

But for the other 58 minutes of the game, the Lions’ run defense was not just good, it was dominant.

For the mathematically challenged, that means Detroit held the Vikings to 1.65 yards per carry—on 37 carries!!— for the rest of the game.

Jarrad Davis (7 tackles) looked much better (he earned a great 85.1 grade from PFF). Akeem Spence looked disruptive in the backfield. We can’t fully ignore the horrible, horrible drive of death, but this was undeniably a step in the right direction for the run defense.

Marvin Jones Jr. just lit up one of the best cornerbacks in the league

That was Marvin Jones’ best performance of his Lions career, without a single doubt. Xavier Rhodes is one of the most talented defensive backs in the entire NFL, and Jones took him to task.

Marvin finished with six catches on nine targets for 109 yards and two touchdowns. And one of his touchdowns looked like this:

That is insane and, dare I say, Calvin-esque.

Jones now has 731 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on the year. He is on pace to set personal bests all over. Considering fans—myself included—were figuring out ways the Lions could get out of his contract earlier in the year, Jones has responded like a pro.

Oh, and this is true, too:

We saw something resembling a pass rush

The Minnesota Vikings had only given up 10 sacks on the year heading into Thanksgiving. The Lions sacked Case Keenum twice on Thursday and added several pressures that just missed. Ezekiel Ansah got in on the party, notching just his fifth sack of the year, while Anthony Zettel and Akeem Spence split the other.

In total, the Lions had nine quarterback hits (per ESPN), which was more than even the Vikings had on the day (seven).

Oh, and Dwight Freeney should be in the lineup next week. Maybe there’s hope for this unit yet.

Eric Ebron caught every pass thrown his way

Ever since Eric Ebron became a father, he has actually been a very reliable receiver. On a day in which his counterpart, Darren Fells, caught zero of the three passes thrown his way, Ebron stuck out as a huge positive.

Ebron was targeted four times on Thursday. He caught all four of those passes for 34 yards, and three of those earned first downs.

While Ebron may never reach the high expectations we have set for him, in the past four weeks he’s settled nicely into a small, but dependable role.

The Lions are not out of the playoff race

Detroit is currently sitting on the outside looking in, but they are far from done contending for a playoff spot. Their most difficult game of the season is now out of the way, and their remaining five opponents have a combined record of 21-29 (.420).

Detroit only finds themselves a half-game (plus tiebreaker) behind the Atlanta Falcons for the final wild card spot. They will also have to battle the Panthers and Seahawks (among others) for a playoff berth, but consider all of these games still remaining on the schedule:

  • Saints at Rams
  • Washington at Cowboys
  • Vikings at Falcons
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Eagles at Seahawks
  • Saints at Falcons
  • Vikings at Panthers
  • Seahawks at Jaguars
  • Eagles at Rams
  • Rams at Seahawks
  • Falcons at Buccaneers
  • Falcons at Saints
  • Buccaneers at Panthers
  • Seahawks at Cowboys
  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Cowboys at Eagles
  • Cardinals at Seahawks

The NFC is going to beat up on itself quite a bit in the final five weeks of the season. If the Lions can eke out a 4-1 record down the stretch—a very reasonable accomplishment given the schedule—they move to 10-6. That doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot, but it’s enough to give them a very realistic shot. If the Lions somehow manage to win out, an 11-5 record almost guarantees them a playoff spot.

So keep your head up and your bellies full this Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of football to be played.