Let that be a lesson: nobody scores 52 points against the Detroit Lions!
In all seriousness, it was a dreadful showing for the Lions on Sunday. A 51-29 score tells the full story of that beatdown. Tim Boyle, playing in the stead of an injured Jared Goff, once again couldn’t rally his team to a victory. With just a week left in the season, the Lions will look to end on a high note against the Green By Packers.
Before we get to that, let’s finish off the loss to the Seahawks. What takeaways can be had?
In for a Penny, in for a pounding
To say the Lions run defense was bad today would be putting it mildly. Rashaad Penny, having a career resurgence in recent weeks, continued his tear to the tune of 170 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. The Lions had absolutely no answer for him early on, and it led to a quick deficit. To add insult to injury, the Lions got dominated by D.K. Metcalf and his three touchdown grabs. Russell Wilson had just 236 passing yards, but he was in total control throughout this game.
It’s hard to be too critical, given the state of the Lions’ roster, but it was a poor outing from everyone. The interior with Alim McNeill and John Penisini were dominated in the trenches. Levi Onwuzurike, Charles Harris, and most of the defensive linemen hardly amounted to anything productive, with only Austin Bryant recording a sack. The secondary wasn’t much better, with Wilson picking on the likes of Will Harris and Ifeatu Melifonwu for most of the game.
There weren’t many positives on defense, evident by the whopping 51 points allowed. Aaron Glenn has done a good job this season given the circumstances, but this was easily his worst outing as a coordinator. The Lions looked overmatched on nearly every play. If anything, it shows you how valuable players like Amani Oruwariye and Michael Brockers are.
It’s the Amon-Ra Show
I don’t want to constantly feature Amon-Ra St. Brown in these takeaway articles, but given the state of the offense, it’s hard not to. Not much was working for the Lions against the Seahawks, but St. Brown came to play. Not only did he hit a career-high of 111 yards, but he also scored a pair of touchdowns, the best of which was a 23-yard carry.
St. Brown is an incredible weapon for the Lions. It’s a shame that many other rookies are shining in the NFL because St. Brown deserves some accolades for his success this year. The term versatility is overused, but it truly applies to St. Brown. He’s the Lions’ best outside receiver, inside receiver, and against the Seahawks, he was arguably their best running back too. Speaking of which...
Running hard or hardly running?
The Lions were struggling to do anything in the run game. Missing Halapoulivaati Vaitai surely hurt the offensive line, as the interior of Jonah Jackson, Evan Brown, and Tommy Kraemer had a tough time making room for the backs. Jamaal Williams continues to run hard on every snap, but he ran into a wall against Seattle. He and Craig Reynolds combined for 15 carries for just 26 yards. The Lions’ leading rusher was actually D’Andre Swift with 32 yards on four carries, but 31 of those came on a single play. If you were counting on any of them to win your fantasy season, you had a rough day.
Swift actually led the Lions’ running backs in snaps played, but that seems to be a consequence of Seattle’s massive lead. He only added two catches on three targets, so he wasn’t a significant factor on offense. Much like the defense, it’s tough to have too many takeaways about the run game when the Lions were missing some of their best run blockers in Vaitai and Frank Ragnow, and Swift might not be at the top of his game. The Lions were productive against the Cardinals and Falcons in recent weeks, so hopefully this was merely a bad game for the unit.
A hodgepodge of targets for Tim Boyle
While St. Brown is far-and-away the top target for the Lions offense, the remaining targets needed to go somewhere. The Lions’ pass catching group had been an inconsistent bunch all season, but things were clicking in the last month. Josh Reynolds was playing well after being claimed. Kalif Raymond has had moments, including a 100-yard game. T.J. Hockenson was playing well. However, depth quickly became an issue for Detroit.
Hockenson was injured and swiftly ruled out for the season. Reynolds and Raymond were ruled out with COVID this week. Even Hockenson’s replacement, Brock Wright, was forced to miss this game as well. The Lions were left with the likes of KhaDarel Hodge, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy, and Jared Pinkney to complement St. Brown.
Despite this assortment of targets, I thought Boyle had a decent outing. His three interceptions is a poor stat line, but two of them were tipped and the final one was more a desperation play with a mere five minutes left. Boyle finished with just 262 yards and two touchdowns, but he was making some better throws in the second half. The third quarter in particular was excellent for Detroit, scoring 15 points. One of those was a St. Brown touchdown, but the other was a big guy touchdown for left tackle Taylor Decker. That’s fun.
Also of note was the play of Hodge. Previously a special teamer, he had a good game. He had five catches for 76 yards, 42 of those coming on a beauty of a catch. Hodge previously had a season-high of 21 yards, so this was a stark improvement from him. I’m not confident enough to slot him into the lineup every game, but at least there are flashes.
As for Boyle, it’s tough to draw conclusions. On one hand, his play in his three starts has not been good enough, and it looks like the Lions need to improve their backup quarterback come this year or next. However, backups also contribute as de facto play callers—see Kellen Moore, former quarterback, current offensive coordinator, and future head coach. I can’t say if Boyle excels in that regard or not. That’s something that the Lions could value that we can’t necessarily see. He certainly isn’t pushing Jared Goff for a starting spot, nor is he a lock to return next season, but we should temper our expectations of a backup quarterback. Not everyone is Matt Flynn.
Never give up, never surrender
Trailing 31-7 at halftime, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see some level of quit in players. No, not like that, Antonio Brown. Motivation and moral could be low for a 2-12-1 team trailing by multiple scores. However, the Lions continue to demonstrate a fantastic culture, and Dan Campbell deserves significant praise.
The Lions keep fighting, week in, week out. Despite the deficit, the Lions made things interesting to start the second half (excluding Boyle’s interception, of course). It was always a longshot, but there was a moment when they trailed by 16 and it didn’t feel out of reach. The defense could not stop Seattle, sadly, but aren’t giving up. Compare the Lions to a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, where head coach and players were butting heads and respect was tossed out the window. For all the bad we’ve seen from Detroit this season, the players seem committed to Dan Campbell, and Dan Campbell seems committed to them.
I would love to have a microphone in that halftime locker room, because rallying a team after a pitiful opening half must be a challenge. And while the hole was dug too deep, the Lions still battled like a team gunning for a comeback. The talent just isn’t there yet, but the coaches are a good starting point.