On the surface of the Detroit Lions’ season opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, there wasn’t a lot that we didn’t expect. The offense struggled to push the ball deep early in the game, relying heavily on checkdowns and the running game for success. Defensively, the Lions picked up where the left off last year, which is to say, they were horrible.
But the offensive line—which we billed as potentially one of the best in the league—held their own and more against a feared 49ers defensive front. And they managed to do it without their start left tackle Taylor Decker.
Of course, the entire game shifted in two different moments of the game. First, as the Lions were attempting to run a two-minute drill to bring the 49ers’ lead back down to just four, Jared Goff threw a pick six, then followed it up with a quick three-and-out, resulting in 10 points in the final two minutes for San Francisco.
Detroit had their own flurry of plays after scoring, recovering an onside kick, scoring again, and forcing a fumble all in the matter of three minutes.
Those were individually surprising moments, but today’s Question of the Day is:
What was the biggest surprise of the Lions’ Week 1 game?
My answer: I think it has to be the inefficiency of the defensive line. In my Lions-49ers report card, I gave the defensive front a C, but upon watching the game again, I would probably drop that to a C- or D+.
Detroit has a lot of talent on the defensive line, and my faith in that hasn’t wavered much. But let’s call a spade a spade. The Lions tallied just a single tackled for loss in this game, and it came on a blitzing Tracy Walker. I was hoping for a little more penetration in the running game, specifically.
Of course, there are justifiable reasons for Detroit’s struggles. This is one of the most complex, difficult run offenses in the league to defend. You have to be so disciplined to avoid getting tricked that it can be hard to be truly aggressive. Additionally, the lack of pass rush can be easily explained: the Lions barely ever got themselves into obvious passing downs.
Still, it was an underwhelming day from Detroit’s defensive front—one of the few expected strengths on the team. But, hey, they’ve got the Green Bay Packers next week, and they’re coming off a game where they rushed for just 43 rushing yards and 2.9 yards per carry. Hopefully better times are ahead.