The Detroit Lions lost a game that felt like it was over from the start. After digging themselves into a 21-point hole, their rally against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15 came up just short. Detroit fell to 3-10-1 on the season after a 38-17 loss. Here are a few takeaways:
Same problems as every other week
If you have read this piece week to week, you have seen what problems have plagued the Lions all year. The secondary has fallen off a cliff after an impressive opening month of the season, and they have struggled to cover anyone. The running game was inefficient, and none of the running backs reached a double digit rushing total until late in the fourth quarter. David Blough still has not shown any of the shine he showed in his NFL debut.
The problems for this team have been well established by now. There are no signs of them getting any better. Expect nothing to change over the final few weeks of the season.
Big day for Jahlani Tavai
One bright spot was the great play of the Lions rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai. The linebacker opened up the game by intercepting quarterback Jameis Winston on the opening drive, and that set the tone for the rest of his day.
The rookie played well in the absence of Jarrad Davis. He was great against the run and seemed to somehow be in every gap. The team as a whole struggled in coverage, and Tavai did as well, but he he did not particularly stand out as a liability during a rough day for the defense.
This was the biggest test of the rookie’s career so far, and he seemed up to it. He played better than Davis has so far this year, and that speaks well for his future going forward.
Run defense steps up again
One positive the team has had to cling to over the past few weeks is the recovery of their run defense. In 2018, it was the best part of their defense, but they slipped back into the depths of the league defending the run this year.
Last week they played well, though, holding Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings in check. This week they managed to stuff the Bucs on the ground. Ronald Jones’ 23 yards and 2.1 yards per carry led the team in both categories. While they could not stop anyone through the air, the Lions’ run defense almost gave them a path back into the game. Tampa Bay tried to rest on their laurels to star the second half, but Detroit’s ability to stuff them on the ground gave the offense a chance to close the lead all the way down to 7. Tampa went back to the air, and continued the beat down, but at least the run defense looked fine.
(gotta take these small moral victories when we can)