The Detroit Lions dropped their divisional opener to the Green Bay Packers in a 34-17 route. But the game wasn’t quite as much of a blowout as the final score makes it look. Detroit was close to taking a lead late in the third quarter before everything fell apart in a hurry.
Here is my Week 2 report card for the Lions and Dan Campbell.
In the first half, Jared Goff was as close to perfect as you could possibly get. He completed 13-of-16 passes for 137 yards (10.5 yards per attempt!) and a 141.9 passer rating. Heck, he even looked good through the first possession in the third quarter, just barely missing out on a fourth-down conversion that would’ve led to another score.
Then the weather got bad, and Goff imploded. He fumbled his very next snap, then the ball slipped out of his hand on a critical third-and-3. His interception was really bad, but the game was already out of hand and at some point you’re going to have to force some balls into tight windows.
Ultimately, I thought this was a huge step in the right direction from Goff. Early on he was accurate, decisive, and managed the pocket extremely well. Those last mistakes were unfortunate and extremely costly, but I’m not sure I really chalk them up to bad quarterback play. Just poor luck and a victim of rough circumstances.
Running backs: C+
The running game showed some early success yet again on Monday, but I need to see a little more yards after contact from this group. It seems like most of the yards they’re gaining on the ground are the exact amount of yardage the offensive line is affording them. The backs didn’t have a run over 12 yards against the Packers.
That being said, Swift was very good in the receiving game late. I just wish they had gone to that a little earlier in the game.
Tight ends: B+
Hockenson was fantastic yet again, converting nine targets into eight catches, 66 yards and a touchdown. He did have a false start, which was just the beginning of a penalty-filled drive, but I’m going to cut him some slack when he makes a catch like this:
@TheeHOCK8 #DETvsGB | ESPN pic.twitter.com/3jl3VtwS1C— Detroit Lions (@Lions) September 21, 2021
Through two games now, Hockenson has caught 16 of 19 targets for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He’s as close to a sure thing as Goff has right now.
Wide receivers: C-
Early in the game, Goff was able to get his receiving corps more involved early in the game. Quintez Cephus, specifically, seemed to make the most of his first half opportunities. Cephus finished with four catches for 63 yards, but only 7 of those yards were gained in the final half.
The Lions’ lack of receiver depth really seemed to stand out late in this game. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Trinity Benson, and Kalif Raymond all finished below 25 receiving yards. The Lions need much more out of this group, but it’s hard to have high expectations given the talent level.
Offensive line: A
The only sack Goff ended up taking all game was one in which he simply dropped the ball and had to fall on it. Otherwise, pass protection was damn near perfect in the first half, and it was commendable in the second half considering the Packers knew they were going to throw it every down. There are still some concerns about Matt Nelson, but the unit—as a whole—is getting the job done.
The running lanes were there again, although the Lions ran the ball just 19 times.
Defensive line: D+
In the run game, the defensive line is just getting pushed around. There is no sign of penetration. In fact, the Lions defensive line spent most of the game a yard or two back from the line of scrimmage.
There was a little more pressure generated from this unit, though. Nick Williams, Trey Flowers, Michael Brockers and Charles Harris all got their hands in on a sack, while Detroit’s defensive front was responsible for all seven of the team’s quarterback hits.
Williams, in particular, stood out as a solid player in this game. But I’d like to see more from the rookies Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike.
The linebackers were put in tough positions in this game. With the secondary way off the line, it was on the linebackers to both cover the middle of the field and shed blocks in the run game. Without a doubt, Alex Anzalone and Jamie Collins Sr. failed on both accounts there. Missed tackles all over the place, and Aaron Rodgers just picked on them all game. Aaron Jones caught six passes for 48 yard and three touchdowns. Robert Tonyan had three for 52 and a score.
Here’s head coach Dan Campbell on the linebacker play:
“Certainly there’s some plays in there that we want those guys to come downhill. We need to see them come downhill, and instead of playing laterally, play more downhill than laterally.”
Derrick Barnes’ time is coming soon.
Defensive backs: D-
The Lions’ secondary wasn’t tested a lot in this game, but every time Detroit seemed to get themselves in a position to get a stop, the defensive backs would let them down.
- Third-and-12 — Rodgers hits Davante Adams for a 50-yard bomb
- Third-and-14 — Rodgers finds Randall Cobb for 14 (plus too many men)
- First-and-20 —Pass interference for 25 yards (Jerry Jacobs)
- Third-and-goal — Pass interference (Amani Oruwariye)
They weren’t getting picked on all game, but when the Lions needed a big play, they never got one.
Special teams: C
Jack Fox pinned both of his punts inside the 20. Keep doing what you’re doing, kid.
However, I’m concerned about Detroit’s kickoff teams. Godwin Igwebuike may have had one good kick return, but he allowed it to bounce again—which is extremely dangerous. The coverage team may be more concerning, as they gave up a 41 yard kick return, and they gave up another big return that was luckily called back due to a penalty. I’m moving towards hoping they just kick it out of the end zone for the rest of the year.
Let’s jump to the two most controversial moments in the game. At the end of the first half, the Lions had 1:46 and three timeouts to potentially score a touchdown—plus a good kick return started the drive at the 41-yard line. That’s plenty of time to score a touchdown, but it’s clear one of the team’s goals was to simply get out of the half without the Packers scoring again. So they ran a ton of clock early in the drive and forced themselves into some desperate situations late, decreasing the likelihood of a touchdown.
I understand the thinking there, and I mostly share in the sentiment. That being said, I think they took the clock draining to an extreme, and could’ve given themselves a slightly better chance to put up six before the half.
The other is where the game shifted: fourth-and-1. For the record, I believe going for it was the absolute right call. That defense wasn’t stopping anything, and a fourth-and-1 is a high percentage play. The analytical crowd also very much agreed with going for it:
---> DET (17) @ GB (21) <---— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) September 21, 2021
DET has 4th & 1 at the GB 25
Recommendation (STRONG): Go for it (+3.5 WP)
Actual play: (Shotgun) J.Goff pass incomplete short left to Q.Cephus. pic.twitter.com/jsacRQUgho
But I had a few problems with the play. First, you’d like to see the team just line ‘em up, trust that solid offensive line and just run for it. Additionally, the coaching staff seemed to drag their decision on the fourth down play call, and Goff had to hurry just to get the play off.
This was a common theme on Monday night. The Lions had one delay of game penalty, had to burn a timeout to avoid a second one, and then rushed a key fourth-down play. I put that on the coaches.
That all being said, I still think there was more good than bad in this game. The Lions clearly know who they are, and they did just about everything to minimize their faults. They know their defense is bad, so they tried to keep everything in front of them, forcing the Packers into long drives, hoping they make a mistake along the way. On offense, they’re also trying to stretch out drives with their strong run game and limit possession.
That first half is an exact prototype of how this team is going to win games, and given their strength and weaknesses, it may be the only way they can win games. It’s nice to see a coaching staff that knows that.
And while, yes, I was calling for Derrick Barnes in the second half as well, there’s 15 games left. He’ll get his opportunities. I’m willing to be patient there.
Also, why are you punting down 17 with 8:30 left in the game? I don’t care if it’s a fourth-and-13, times were desperate.