The Detroit Lions brought their perennial Thanksgiving misery to the table, finding yet another way to lose. For another week, the Lions kept it close but failed to close out the game.
Here are some things we learned against the Bears:
Josh Reynolds is WR1
I’ll preface by saying this obviously isn’t saying much given the current state of the Lions' offense. Kalif Raymond, who appeared to emerge as their best receiver over the first half of the season, has had just seven catches over the last four games. Reynolds brings a repertoire with Jared Goff that was apparent from the first drive, single-handedly opening up the offense by affording Goff the trust to look downfield.
I don’t mind Goff missing Reynolds so long as Goff is looking downfield. Early on in the game. Goff overthrew Reynolds by a mile on third and 32. Later on in the game, Goff would airmail Reynolds on 2nd and 32 down the sideline. The incompletions aren’t ideal, but they’re passes that Goff wouldn’t even be attempting with 32 yards to go had Reynolds not been lined up out wide.
Admittedly, Reynolds had a rough debut last week with Tim Boyle at quarterback. However, aside from the fact that it’s Boyle, the Lions were playing in bad wet conditions for the second straight game, and the Lions only completed passes to one wide receiver the entire day. Putting that game aside, Reynolds has made a strong statement in his home debut.
The Lions need more designed quick passes
Goff likes to roll out of the pockets and into the worst places, oftentimes only to chuck the ball out of bounds or check it down behind the line of scrimmage. As of halftime, the Lions' offensive line was struggling against a Bears defense that leads the league in sacks.
Jonah Jackson is the lone starting Lions offensive lineman without a holding call to his name today through the first half— Benjamin Raven (@BenjaminSRaven) November 25, 2021
Penei Sewell -- check
Taylor Decker -- check
Evan Brown -- check
Tommy Kraemer -- check
I suggest short passes because it seems like the Lions are lacking that in their offense. Since coach Dan Campbell took over playcalling, the Lions are either running the ball or passing it downfield. “Downfield” meaning the ball is supposed to go downfield, but it inevitably ends with a check down. Getting the ball out of Goff’s hands sooner on first and second down could really open things up on later downs for the Lions, as well as reduce those egregious holding penalties.
Jack Fox deserves better
In what was the pinnacle of Lions football televised for a national audience, the Lions absolutely squashed another perfect punt from their best player in Jack Fox. About halfway through the third quarter, Fox hit a pooch punt that danced inside the five-yard line long enough to thaw a turkey, while KhaDarel Hodge danced to a different song just feet away from the ball. By the time Hodge found the ball it was too late, and the country witnessed a touchback that embodied Lions football.
This isn’t an exception, either—while Hodge is typically very good on special teams, these mishaps are becoming concerningly frequent.
Hodge involved on something like that three weeks in a row, with a chance to down a punt inside the 5-yard— Benjamin Raven (@BenjaminSRaven) November 25, 2021
This wasn’t the only poor punt coverage on the day, either. Jakeem Grant made a fool of the Lions coverage unit all day, even when he was sandwiched in between a parade of Lions players. Please, someone, teach the Lions to cover punts properly before the Lions waste away Fox like they did Matthew Stafford.
Penei Sewell is blossoming
Sewell just continues to get better and better as the season goes on. I’ll be honest—I wasn’t a fan of the pick and I was really discouraged with the way Sewell started the season. However, Sewell has really turned it around in recent weeks in pass protection and has continued to be a strength in the running game.
It was extra important against the Bears with UDFA Tommy Kraemer filling in for Hal Vaitai at right guard. Kraemer was far from perfect, but Sewell made some really nice assists to open up running lanes next to Kraemer, notably on Jamaal Williams’ 19-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter.