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Lions vs. Saints stock report: The one bright spot on the defense isn’t who you think it is

Also, coming to terms with Stafford’s poor play.

Chris Perfett

Some Lions fans were buying the dip on the Lions. They saw a bright spot, a hope, a sliver against the Cardinals, but even in such a victory, stocks were down.

D’Andre Swift has appeared numerous times in this stock report. He does so again. But we save our biggest economic advice for the defense, and for the big man on Detroit’s offense:

Stock down: Matthew Stafford

I made a note on Week 2 that Stafford was trending in a poor direction. I heard a lot of explanations at the time for Stafford’s poor play in the first two games on the year. It’s now Week 4, and the Saints game has placed several shortcomings on this offense squarely on his shoulders.

Stafford made multiple mistakes that put the team on its back. He overshot receivers. He made a number of ill-advised throws. His pocket presence suffered in this game, taking unnecessary sacks; perhaps none more unnecessary as the third one, where he stepped into a rapidly collapsing pocket to do...something, I really don’t know.

Here was another particularly gruesome sequence: Stafford forced the ball to Jesse James, but only thanks to Malcolm Jenkins not getting his fingers on a surefire interception. On the next play, Stafford overshot Marvin Jones, who managed to draw defensive pass interference to save the play. On the third play in this sequence, Stafford undershot T.J. Hockenson, resulting in an end zone pick by Patrick Robertson.

It is beyond understood that the defense is beyond woeful, and there’s plenty of spite to be saved for calling for rushing plays late in the game(?!). In the past, there were always reasons to explain for Stafford’s bad play. This time, it’s on him. That’s not an indictment of his entire career, or reading the fortunes of years yet to come.

But it is worrying for this season.

Stock up: Romeo Okwara

On a supremely disappointing day for the defense, the elder Okwara brother showed he was still able to play a significant role for the pass rushing. Okwara was elusive, easily slipping off the tackles and tight ends assigned to stop him, while also pushing back and gaining ground to defend against the Saints run.

Okwara was productive in getting to Drew Brees with three QB hits, although there was certainly room for growth. On the play after his sack of Brees, Okwara had a chance to record another one, but was unable to bring him down, allowing the Saints quarterback to escape and convert on third and 12. Still, this is grading on a scale here; unfortunately, the scale takes into account that nobody else is really stepping up in the pass rush.

Stock down: Run defense

Reggie Ragland got dragged into the end zone by Latavius Murray. I saw it happen. Nothing will ever erase that memory.

The one thing that the Lions defensive line had proven, at the very least, competent at in past seasons vanished on Sunday.

The Saints rushers never pulled off any chunk damage (the longest run on the day was for 12 yards by Alvin Kamara) but they easily made up for this shortcoming in volume. The Saints put together a plan to run the ball and dominate time of possession—you know, that thing the Lions seem to want to do!—and they succeeded. They dared the Lions to stop them up front, and there was no answer whatsoever.

Goal line run defense in particular was atrocious, giving up three touchdowns. The Saints didn’t even need any special trickery on the matter. They rammed the ball down the Lions’ throats.

Stock down: Trey Flowers

The Lions have spent a lot of money on Trey Flowers, and all that has been returned is mediocre performances this season.

Okwara made his presence felt on Sunday against the Saints passing attack. The same cannot be said of Flowers, and this is a player that was sought and prized by the Boston Boys to become the lynchpin of the line.

Stock up: D’Andre Swift

Consider this a gentle bump in stock value. Swift had a touchdown on the day, but the biggest sign in his improved value is watching him get to the edge on a rush.

The Saints run defense is a solid beast, but Swift posted a respectable average on his carries and showed flashes, even when he wasn’t breaking into the flat. He’s also proving his value as a receiving back, once again catching all four targets he had.

After a rough start to the season, Swift is so far proving himself dependable and versatile, which is what you want out of a young tailback in the modern NFL.

Stock down: Playcalling (again)

I’m just a dumb sports fan with no playing or coaching experience, so I clearly don’t appreciate the galaxy brain moves going on with this fourth quarter playcalling where the Lions draw up a staggering number of ineffective run plays when attempting to mount a comeback.

I’m too stupid to appreciate how much time was burned off the clock, allowing the Saints to ice the game on a third down conversion. My small chimpanzee brain struggles to comprehend why this had to be, why the Lions were the last team in existence to realize that they were literally running out of time to dig themselves out of a hole of their own creation, a hole they made by deciding that a 14-point lead in the first quarter was good enough, surely this was insurmountable, surely it was fine to take their feet off the gas.

I want to question the decision-making here. I want to ask what in God’s domain possessed these men, these inheritors of von Clausewitz, to dawdle and gawk and blow the whole thing up. But I don’t to have that luxury! I’m just a moron, a buffoon, a town drunkard. They’re the geniuses.

Stock down: Adrian Peterson

It’s becoming clear that Peterson’s path to success is going to be predicated on how well the offensive line can establish the run. Against the Saints, there was no revenge for his dismissal. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, with his longest run just 10 yards.

Yes, he did have a touchdown, his first as a Lion. It doesn’t matter. Peterson made up half of the Lions’ alarming 22 carries. He’s going to continue to get volume, filch a touchdown on the goal line and generally be dependent upon the offensive line having a good matchup in each game.

In other words, he’s playing at about replacement level.

Stock down: Marvin Jones Jr.

Slap his face on a milk carton because he only had two targets this entire game. Granted, he was already starting to vanish last week during the Cardinals where he found just three targets, but he made big plays with what he was given there. The same was not true of Jones against the Saints.

It’s not like the Lions are binge-ing on Golladay either; they’re spreading the ball around pretty well! But that generosity doesn’t seem to apply to Jones.

Stock up: Gallows humor

The Saints game gets to sit in the bellies of fans for two weeks, festering like an ulcer.

It’s clear that the Lions are on an unsavory trajectory. Plenty of football, things of that nature, but unless these woeful team starts to piece the large puzzle blocks before them together, it’s not going to matter much.

Humor helps everyone cope. Irony can poison the soul, but sometimes it’s the only thing to keep oneself sane. I heartily recommend it for dealing with this season if the Lions continue their southbound trajectory.

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