Look, I know that nobody wants to hear this today. It’s so much easier to sit and stew in anger and let the sky fall upon us. I’m upset too. I truly am. Nobody wants to see their team tie, especially when it’s Week 1 and expectations are high and emotions are too. But the fact is, this team looked pretty darn good on Sunday before it all fell apart.
I have a hard time blaming any of the players for the team’s collapse Sunday. I know you have to. They allowed the Cardinals back in the game and put themselves in a position where they could possibly lose. I do wholesale blame coaching, though. The staff won’t ever admit it—even though a human moment would be quite the breath of fresh air—but they drew up a game plan that did everything other than stick the dagger in the game.
Let’s get back to the players. Today I want to highlight some of the reasons you shouldn’t let the sky fall on you and some of the reasons you shouldn’t be too worried about the upcoming schedule that looks somewhat daunting.
Matthew Stafford appears to be the old Stafford again
The Lions were supposed to be a run-first team. That’s all we heard all offseason long. Everyone perpetuated that thought. Even Madden 20 says it in the opening of some of its games. But on Sunday they let Stafford wing the pig all over the place.
Man did he look doing it, too. Stafford threw the ball 45 times on Sunday and completed 27 of those passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 110.0 and he even ran for 22 yards. The guy pulled off a zone read run Sunday. Matthew Stafford did that. That’s not a typo.
Stafford also returned to his gun slinging form. He shed the handcuffs like Forrest Gump shed the leg braces and got outside of the pocket and made crazy throws like this one.
When Stafford plays like this, he gives the Lions a chance to win. What’s obviously concerning is the team’s inability to protect him. Stafford was sacked three times on Sunday, two of them on the blind side.
Per Kyle Meinke of MLive, only one quarterback faced more pressure on Sunday than Matthew Stafford. It shows in his quarterback rating, but when they do protect him, there may not be a more dangerous quarterback in the league.
Matthew Stafford had a 63.9 QB rating when under pressure. Checked in at 143.6 when he was kept clean.— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) September 10, 2019
The weapons are actually weapons
You know who had the biggest day in the Lions wide receiver corps? Their number three receiver. You read that right. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. got all the attention you knew they would get, and the Lions were still able to function mostly without them. That’s a big stride forward.
Nine different Lions recorded receptions on Sunday. Four of them had 40 yards or more, and three of them had touchdowns.
Danny Amendola had a big game with 104 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. To get production like that out of your third receiver is a major thing from a team that struggled mightily in the receiving game last season after they traded away Golden Tate.
But the biggest difference is at tight end. Rookie T.J. Hockenson had a big game with 131 yards and a touchdown on six catches—a record for rookie tight ends in their first game. Hockenson opens a wrinkle on this offense that is literally game changing for this team.
Who instantly forgot the names of the guys that played on this team a year ago? While Jesse James didn’t do much in the pass game, he helped out in the blocking game. He even slid over to help out Taylor Decker who was having one of the worst games I’ve seen a left tackle have in a while.
If these guys are able to keep up this pace, defenses are going to have fits with this team, especially considering a few of their next opponents (Eagles, Chiefs) allowed 350 passing yards or more in Week 1. Sure one game isn’t saying everything for any team, but it’s certainly a promising start for this offense.
Pressures and coverage
Who would have thought the Lions would finish Week 1 fifth in quarterback pressures?
Team pressures after W1 and how that looks pro-rated over the season.— Tom Kislingbury (@TomDegenerate) September 10, 2019
Last year the Raiders were 32nd in pressures with about 150.
The Lions were 31st with about 215.
SO pressure rates in W1 were very low.#FFIDP pic.twitter.com/z07TE2FThw
Before things went downhill after The Timeout, the Lions had been in Kyler Murray’s face all day. They sacked the rookie quarterback five times on Sunday. Three of those came from Devon Kennard. Their pressure on Murray even forced the rookie into an early interception.
You can make a case that a lot of other quarterbacks aren’t going to hold onto the ball as long, and the Cardinals offensive line isn’t the bees knees, but the Lions still did their jobs on Sunday.
The corners got some work done, too. Rashaan Melvin looked like a legitimate number two corner with three passes deflections and eight tackles. Pro Football Focus graded him out at 76.9. That’s pretty damn good.
Melvin wasn’t the only one that graded out highly. Darius Slay came in at 72.1, Tracy Walker had an astonishing 81.2, Justin Coleman had a 67.3 and Quandre Diggs had a 61.4 grade.
Those are all pretty good numbers for a group that had a lot of questions surrounding it before the season started.
In conclusion, it’s a long season. The tie sucks, and I hate it as much as you do. But it in no way strays me from seeing how good this team is capable of being, even when the chips don’t all fall in the right place. I believe this team has a better chance at competing against these tougher teams early in the schedule than we believed they did. Let’s see where things go.