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4 Things we learned from the Detroit Lions’ last-second loss to the Dallas Cowboys

An unprepared Lions team loses once again.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

They lost again. It was a heart breaker and they almost pulled it out. Dallas Cowboys 26, Detroit Lions 24. Here are a few things we learned during another bad day at the office.

The investment made into the run defense means nothing

The Detroit Lions made it a point to fix their run defense. Sylvester Williams, Ricky Jean Francois and Eli Harold are all players the Lions added this offseason that have always been better run stoppers than anything else in their respective careers. 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis and 2016 second-round pick A’Shawn Robinson also earned their draft status mostly because of the work they did defending the run. Detroit invested so heavily into their run defense that the biggest concern heading into the season was the team’s lack of pass rushers.

This investment by Bob Quinn clearly does not matter. Ezekiel Elliot had 152 yards on 25 carries. The Lions run defense has now been a major factor in all three of the Lions’ losses. Whether it’s poor personnel or poor coaching, Detroit needs a fix upfront.

The pass coverage is bad again

Detroit’s pass coverage looked amazing in Week 3. They held Tom Brady in check and the players were clearly well prepared. That was not the case this week.

Dak Prescott, who hadn’t eclipsed 200 yards all season heading into Week 4, threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Elliot was dominant in the passing game catching 4 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Dallas has one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL, but you would not be able to tell if you watched Sunday’s game. Jamal Agnew was repeatedly picked on for medium gains. Davis gave up a deep pass to Elliot that eventually cost the Lions the game. No one outside of Darius Slay looked particularly good in coverage.

This defense needs a fix.

Detroit is choosing to lose games with conservative play calling

The Lions’ first two possessions of this game ended with punts. On both possessions, they punted from inside the Cowboys’ 45-yard line. This is not how you win football games.

Detroit’s conservative play calling—that seems to try to do anything to make sure Matthew Stafford’s effect on the game is limited—has never truly made sense. Stafford has been this team’s most valuable player for a decade now and he has definitely earned the trust of this organization. For some reason, though, the team would rather hand over the ball to the other team rather than give their 100 million dollar man a chance to make a play.

Throughout the game, Detroit would choose to run the ball in interesting spots. On the late drive that ended in a Golden Tate touchdown, they put themselves behind the chains by running LeGarrette Blount up the middle for a loss of two yards around mid-field. A drive that eventually ended in a Lions first-half field goal looked like it was going nowhere until a Rick Wagner face mask penalty forced the offense to have to throw the ball for a first down. Stafford used his arm to carry the team into the red zone, then the drive stalled when the Lions decided they wanted to run the ball again.

This has been a problem for years in Detroit and it cost the Lions the game today.

This team is not prepared to play

This game was filled with penalties, failed execution and a lot of players looking like they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. At one point, early in the second half, Detroit was called for three defensive holding penalties on just one drive. No one in the front-seven could hold their gaps to stop the run. The secondary was flustered all day and let receivers slip by them unnoticed when they were in zone coverage and the offensive line fell apart when T.J. Lang left the game with an injury.

Outside of Stafford and the wide receivers, nobody looked good on Sunday. The team that outsmarted Tom Brady and the Patriots seems to be all but gone and they have returned to their form from the opening two weeks of the season.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.