The Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons fought tooth and nail on Sunday in a surprisingly modest scoring game. The Lions emerged with a win, and the Falcons emerged with another infamous loss. Todd Gurley’s misplay will get talked about, as will the epic drive the Lions led to win the game, but attention needs to be paid to the defense.
The Lions’s defense was miserable entering the bye week. Beatdowns courtesy of the Packers and Saints were the identity of this defense. Can’t stop the run, can’t stop the pass, can’t do much of anything. Even in their win over the Cardinals, the defensive performance spoke more to the struggles of Arizona than the success of Detroit.
The bye week brought a superb victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but people were hesitant to proclaim the defense fixed. The Jaguars, now 1-6 after a loss to the Chargers this week, were and still are an easy team to dismiss. It was a one-off performance, nothing more, right?
Is this a two-off performance?
The Falcons are now an equally miserable 1-6, but their offense had many people worried entering this game. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst, and Olamide Zaccheaus are all capable targets for Matt Ryan, and with no Desmond Trufant or Justin Coleman, it would once again be on young corners Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye to stop them. Add in a run defense that had the potential to get gashed by Todd Gurley, and the Lions had a tough task ahead of them.
Yardage-wise, the Lions gave up nearly 400 total to Atlanta, but that does not paint the whole picture. The Lions pitched two shutout quarters, and might have limited the Falcons to three points in the fourth quarter if Gurley did not accidentally fall into the end zone. Of course that would have lost them the game, but I digress.
Danny Shelton and John Penisini were crucial to the interior dominance. Add in Romeo Okwara notching two sacks and a critical forced fumble, plus good tackling in general from the defense, it was a great follow-up performance for the team.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Have the Lions fixed their defense?
My answer: I think the defense is still a work in progress. I don’t think the defense is at its full potential yet, but we’ve seen some promise in recent weeks. People will harp on their only good performances coming against bottom-tier teams, but I think that is misleading.
The Jaguars boast an average offense—better than most give credit for—and they came close to beating the Chargers this week. Atlanta, as mentioned, has a lot of talent on paper, and given their recent coaching change, it is not surprising that there is some turmoil over there.
The Lions have moments where they struggle to make stops, and we saw a bit of that on Sunday. The pass rush, while improving, is still subpar. The Lions had a fairly poor second quarter, allowing two consecutive long drives. Even after those long and tiring drives, the Lions were still in the game. If anything, the offense was the unit that fell asleep on Sunday.
If the Lions can field even an average defense, that is a huge boon for this team. They have a weak schedule ahead. Now is the time to capitalize on it.