The Detroit Lions were lifeless in Week 9 as the team lost to the Minnesota Vikings 24-9. It was the team’s second straight loss and it puts their playoff hopes on life support. Here are a few things we learned in another mess of a game:
Matthew Stafford needs to be better
Matthew Stafford has been as inconsistent as ever this season. The quarterback came out incredibly cold to start the year but seemed to have turned things around. This week he looked like the guy he was in the early weeks of the season, though. Stafford’s ball placement was off. His footwork looked terrible as he was often dancing around the pocket when he did not need to be. The quarterback had a hard time recognizing and reacting to pressure as well and was partly at fault for the Lions giving up 10 sacks on the day.
A lot of the other players on the team failed to perform as well, but if Stafford is going to be as bad as he was Sunday, then Detroit stands no chance no matter how everyone else plays.
The offensive line is not the elite unit it was being heralded as
Detroit’s offensive line looked great in pass protection the first half of the season. Stafford often had a clean pocket to throw from and the advanced metrics seemed to love them. It all fell apart in Week 9, though.
Minnesota has one of the league’s best pass rushes—featuring both Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter among many others—but an elite unit like the one the Lions were being talked up as has no excuse for being as bad as they were Sunday. Rick Wagner was playing like one of the best tackles in football for the first month of the season but has now put together back-to-back bad games against the Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. T.J. Lang is struggling with injuries again and backup guard Kenny Wiggins might as well have been a turnstile. Taylor Decker has been struck with the injury bug as well and the entire unit is once again falling apart. They gave up 10 sacks, pressures on nearly every drop back and could not create room for the run game to get going. It has been an overall terrible couple of weeks for them.
Theo Riddick will help replace Golden Tate
One of the biggest story lines for the Lions offense this week was dealing with the loss of Golden Tate. While TJ Jones and Brandon Powell were the guys many thought would step up, it looks like running back Theo Riddick will be the guy to usurp Tate’s role instead.
The running back had missed the last two games with a knee injury but now is back in the lineup. While he still was often lined up in his regular role as a running back, he was also split out wide a few times. His shifty route-running ability translated into the slot with ease and he was the most effective slot receiver for the Lions. He led the team with seven receptions, though it was only for a lowly 36 yards. Detroit will probably allow Jones, and eventually Powell, get some work in the slot going forward, but for now it looks like Riddick is the team’s best chance at replacing their star wide out.
The run defense has improved drastically
The addition of Damon Harrison Sr. is already playing off and then some for Detroit. Harrison has been a force in the middle of the Lions defensive front, and his impact has been huge. While Detroit did give up a long, 70-yard run to running back Dalvin Cook they were great defending the run outside of that one hiccup. For the rest of the game, Cook and fellow running back Latavius Murray combined for 50 yards on 19 carries— a mere 2.6 yards per carry. Harrison closed out everything inside and the linebackers did a great job cleaning up behind him. What was the Lions’ biggest issue in the past has been partially alleviated, and that is a good sign for them going forward.