The Detroit Lions are now losers of three straight games, after falling 42-30 to the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. The team drops below .500 only weeks after looking like they had a real chance to be favorites in the NFC North. Here are a few takeaways from a rough game:
Lack of pass rush has caught up to the Lions
The Lions defense had been great this season despite their inability to regularly pressure opposing quarterbacks. Matt Patricia will often rush three up front, leaving behind a few linebackers to serve as QB spies, and playing everyone else in man coverage. The Lions also blitz less than any other team in the league.
Their opponent this week, and most specifically Kirk Cousins, has struggled a lot this year when other teams have managed to generate regular pressure. When teams have not, Cousins has looked like a star. Detroit’s failures upfront really bit them this week and Cousins was able to deal dimes from a clean pocket for most of the day.
Detroit’s identity is not that of a blitzing team, but they will have to find someway to start generating pressure this season. If they do not they will simply allow more teams to punish them. The playbook on beating the Vikings offense has been well established, but Detroit just could not execute the right gameplan.
Where is the run defense?
Both of the big names the Lions have playing in the middle of their defensive front, Damon Harrison Sr. and Jarrad Davis, were added to the team because of their ability to stop the run. The team has a few other great run defenders on that side of the ball too, including Quandre Diggs and Tavon Wilson. Despite that, the run defense has been awful this season.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had a huge day against the Lions defense, with 142 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. This is yet another game where Detroit has allowed a running back to have a huge day against them on the ground. There really is not a reasonable fix either. The personnel on the field was made to stop the run, and other than “the players just being better”, there really is nothing the coaching staff can do here.
Favorites to bottom feeders?
The Lions looked like they may be favorites in the NFC North after they nearly knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4. Three weeks later, it looks like they may be the team we thought they were coming into the season.
Detroit played their first “bad” game of the season in Week 7, but now they are 2-3-1, and four wins behind the first place Green Bay Packers. While the schedule does get easier, four games is a near impossible gap to make up in the NFL. Barring a collapse by a Packers team that looks like juggernauts, the NFC North could already be out of reach. They now also leave the day three wins behind the Vikings, and if the Chicago Bears knock off the New Orleans Saints on Sunday then they will be firmly in last place in the division. Detroit’s season has turned on its head in a matter of days.