On Saturday morning, I boarded a plane at the Grand Rapids airport with all the optimism in the world. I was headed to Minnesota to cover the team I’ve watched my entire life for the first time as a credentialed media member. Sadly, I went to Minnesota and all of that optimism got stepped on in the Lions’ 24-9 loss to the Vikings.
As always, I have thoughts on this game. These are those thoughts.
What the hell was this?
And on this day, Matthew Stafford officially became a Lion: pic.twitter.com/sV4NE5H4dB— Hardy (@hardy985) November 4, 2018
At this point, the Lions were still in the game. They were down just 17-6 and were starting to put together a decent drive. Then Stafford had this little mental mistake and the Vikings scooped it up and scored the final touchdown that really put the game out of reach.
In the press conference after the game, Stafford said he was just trying to do too much on account of the fact that nothing had worked all day. Kerryon Johnson tried to take credit for the mistake in the locker room, but this one is fully on Stafford.
10 times worse than you thought
Stafford was right. Nothing was working out for the Lions offense on Sunday, and more than anything, nothing was working out for him. Stafford got sacked 10 times in Minnesota and somehow lived to tell the tale about it. That wasn’t all, he also took a chunk of rubber to the eye.
Look at this for five minutes and try not to throw up or get super creeped out. You can’t do it.
It’s crazy that this happened to Stafford on Sunday because previous to this game, Stafford had taken just 13 sacks. 21 quarterbacks had been sacked more than Stafford in 2018. Now he finds himself back in a familiar territory with the guys at the top like Eli Manning and Deshaun Watson. Shiver!!
What happened to the run game?
Just two weeks ago, the Lions ran for 248 yards on the Dolphins in Miami and looked like they were one of the most complete offenses in the NFL. That game now feels like it was 10 years ago. In the last two weeks, the Lions have combined for just 100 yards on the ground.
It seems just so inexplicable, too. There’s no reason Detroit should looks so impressive running the ball against Miami, Green Bay and New England, then turn around and play the way they’ve played the last two weeks against Seattle and Minnesota. Maybe something needs to happen.
Maybe the Lions should move on from Jim Bob Cooter
Seems a bit harsh, right? I did just praise the team’s offense for their performances against the Patriots, Packers and Dolphins. But there’s a lot more bad than good for this team’s offense this year, and you can’t blame the loss of Golden Tate for everything. He was here for it, too.
For whatever reason, under Cooter, the Lions refuse to go up tempo, they consistently use LeGarrette Blount in situations that would be way better for Kerryon Johnson, and they constantly run the same old screen plays that bury them over and over again on third down. Those are just a few things that are aggravating.
The Lions simply have too much talent on this offense to be stifled in the red zone and not use players in situations that they can succeed in. This all leads back to the guy calling the plays, and that’s Cooter. It’s time for the Lions to find a coordinator that’s willing to do the right things. The question is will that be during the season or after it? We’ll find out soon enough.
Lost in everything, the defense actually played well
The Lions defense made some mistakes early on in the game. Most notable was Dalvin Cook’s 70-yard run. Outside of that, however, the defense really showed up in the second half of this game, even if the score doesn’t represent that.
The Lions were able to make Minnesota punt on all of their offensive drives in the second half with the exception of just one, when they forced a fumble.
That’s has to be promising for Lions fans. Here’s a team that that struggled to stop offenses all year and they ended up holding a team that’s ninth in yards per game to just 283 total yards. That’s 100 less than their weekly average.
Snacks has a lot to do with it
Everyone will focus on the Tate trade for obvious reasons, but the Damon Harrison Sr. trade is a huge win for the Lions going forward. The defensive tackle had another big performance against the Vikings.
The stat line won’t show it—he had just four tackles all day—but if you look for the opposing team’s running back, you will constantly see Snacks right there either making a play or assisting on a play. That’s why if you strip away Cook’s 70-yard run, you’ll see the Vikings only ran for 58 yards.
I knew this team was all about the future, but I still thought there was possibility today
Now, I’m not sure. I looked at their game against Seattle as an anomaly at the time. This was something I thought they could get past. Even after the Tate trade, I wasn’t ready to say that this team was done simply due to the loss of one player. But that feels more and more like it might be the case. Have the Lions finally broken my spirit for the 2018 season? I would say yes, but then I would just get excited again when the Lions beat the Bears next week. There’s no winning here for me or you.