Here are 10 things I think I know heading into Week 4 against the Vikings:
1. I think drops, not refs are the real culprit for the failed fourth quarter comeback. Way before Walt Anderson stepped onto the field and delivered the soul-crushing news that the Lions had once again fallen victim to a rulebook obscurity, the Lions failed twice to drive the ball late in the game and score the go ahead touchdown.
The first attempt came with 8:03 left in fourth quarter. Darius Slay just picked off Matt Ryan and set the Lions up at their own 45 yard line. Here was the sequence of plays:
- First-and-10 at the Detroit 45 (08:03) Stafford’s pass falls incomplete after a Marvin Jones drop.
- Second-and-10 at Detroit 45 (07:59) Ameer Abdullah loses four yards on a draw play.
- Third-and-14 at Detroit 41 (7:22) Stafford passes short left to Eric Ebron for 8 yards after a free blitzer hurries the throw.
- 4th & 6 at Detroit 49 (07:00) Punt
The Lions defense held the Falcons to no points on the next drive, and after a punt the Lions started their drive at their 31 yard line.
- First-and-10 at Detroit 31 (03:15) Stafford’s short pass Theo Riddick falls incomplete after Greg Robinson gives up a pressure and near strip sack.
- Second-and-10 at Det 31 (03:10) Eric Ebron drops a sure five yard gain.
- Third-and-10 at Detroit 31(03:07) Stafford’s pass deep left to Golden Tate falls incomplete.
- 4th & 10 at Detroit 31(03:01) Punt
Really not great.
The fact of the matter is, the Lions offense didn’t capitalize when they should have. And that leads me to my next thought.
2. I think settling for field goals killed the Lions’ chances to dominate the game. Despite a shaky run game, the Lions defense kept them in the game with three turnovers. The offense struggled to complete drives even after getting great field position. If the Lions want to take the next step this season, they need to start scoring touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.
3. I think the injuries to Tavon Wilson and Jarrad Davis better not last long or the Lions run defense is in trouble. I initially didn’t think much to Tavon Wilson’s injury given that Miles Killebrew has played solid in spot duty this season. But Wilson’s injury was compounded by Jarrad Davis’ injury. With Wilson and Davis out, it limited the Lions’ ability to use Killebrew as an extra in the box defender, and forced them to play Paul Worrilow, Nick Bellore, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin way more than the optimal amount of snaps—and that’s putting it nicely.
4. I think the Lions played a pretty bad game against the Falcons, and still almost won. Rewatching the game, it’s kind of incredible that the Lions were that close to winning. The Falcons had two 75-yard touchdowns drives. The Lions gave up over 150 yards rushing. And the Falcons didn’t even punt the ball until late in the fourth quarter. But the Lions battled, were mentally tough, and literally fought until the final second (or final 10-second runoff).
5. I think the Lions shouldn’t take Case Keenum lightly. If Keenum starts over Sam Bradford this week it’s no guarantee the Lions will be able to contain him. He’s not the most physically gifted quarterback in the NFL, and probably is best served as a backup, but the Lions should be very familiar with the damage that Keenum can do. Last season when Keenum was with the Rams he completed 27 of 32 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions in Week 6.
6. I think the officiating across the league is laughable. The inconsistency from game to game or even play to play is maddening for both fans, teams, and players.
Golden Tate wasn't as impressed with Dez Bryant's touchdown as everyone else, but he has a good reason. pic.twitter.com/MB4uTruoMm— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 26, 2017
7. I think Glover Quin is playing the best football of his career. I loved when the Lions extended Quin this offseason. He’s the exact type of guy I love to root for. He’s excellent both on and off the field. And this season, he may be playing at an all-time level. Right now he’s Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 rated safety (since publishing this article, PFF has re-graded him as the No. 2 safety). He’s already matched his interception total from last season, and is on pace to top his seven interception season from 2014.
8. I think it’s tough to know anything about any NFL team so far this season. If you think back to Week 4 last season do you know what all the talk was about? The undefeated Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. And neither of those teams even made the playoffs in 2016. It just goes to show how difficult it is to know which teams will be good and which teams will be bad, especially in September.
9. I think the Vikings have one of the best receiver duos in the league. Both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been excellent so far this season. But the Lions have kept Larry Fitzgerald, Odell Beckham Jr., and Julio Jones all out of the end zone through the first three weeks. It should be a great matchup in the secondary this week.
10. I think the Lions proved they are one of the NFC’s top teams. After nearly beating the Falcons, the Lions look to be in the thick of the race atop the NFC. The Lions proved they can hang with the best in the NFL. And with teams like the Seahawks, Cardinals, and Buccaneers all struggling early, there’s room for the Lions to take control of their destiny early in the season.
This week’s game against the Vikings is not only a fight for the top spot in the NFC North, but for a top spot in the entire conference. And that’s something this team hasn’t fought for in a long time.