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5 takeaways from the Lions’ loss to the Cowboys

It was closer than many expected, but the Lions still fell flat when it mattered most against the Cowboys.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Did the bye week do the Detroit Lions any favors? After their outing against the Dallas Cowboys, it appears to be a mixed bag.

The defense came to play against the Dallas Cowboys, putting forth their best showing of the season after a historically awful start. Unfortunately, the Lions could not muster their once-explosive offense, as they instead fell with a whimper.

What takeaways can be had from yet another loss?

Early-season Jared Goff was a mirage

We all wanted Jared Goff to turn a corner. After an early season of good to great play, Goff had created many believers and just as many doubters. Unfortunately, it looks like the doubters may have been right, and with it comes uncertainty for the Detroit Lions’ future.

The shutout loss to the New England Patriots was the first major misstep of Goff’s season, and the tumultuous play continued against the Cowboys. While Goff was fine for the first half, albeit to the tune of a mere six points, things fell apart in the second half. Goff led off the half with a brutal interception where Josh Reynolds looked unaware. With the Lions trying to muster a touchdown drive, Goff threw another ill-advised interception. Dallas responded with a touchdown drive, and it was all but over from then onward.

Goff would add two fumbles to close out the game, a series of events so bad, you almost had to laugh. When the pressure came on, Goff folded. Clutch quarterbacks play lights-out when it matters. Middling quarterbacks do not step up in similar moments. A replacement-level quarterback sinks any hope of a comeback. Goff seems firmly in the final category at the moment.

As another early draft pick looms, the Lions’ need at quarterback is becoming pressing. It makes the lack of young quarterbacks on the roster even more problematic—not even an undrafted rookie was added by the team this offseason. Barring a massive turnaround, Goff does not appear to be the future of the team. Yet without a backup worth evaluating, we are stuck with Goff for 2022.

Jeff Okudah shines in run defense

The defense was playing admirably against the Cowboys, especially considering their statistics entering the week. The final score took a turn due to some late Dallas touchdowns, but the wind had completely left Detroit’s sails by that point. Instead, I want to focus on the defense when the game was close, and no player shined like Jeff Okudah.

I have praised Okudah before, and while his status as a lockdown corner is still up for debate, it was his run defense that really stood out against the Cowboys. Okudah finished with a whopping 15 tackles, a dozen of which came as solo tackles. He was a beast as a tackler, especially along the line of scrimmage:

Considering how greatly the secondary has struggled with run defense in recent weeks, a performance like this from Okudah was a stellar change of pace. He is truly developing into the cornerback the Lions desperately needed.

Josh Paschal was worth the wait

Speaking of development, how about the pro football debut for Josh Paschal? Having missed the entire preseason due to hernia surgery, it would be reasonable to expect a quiet first game for the rookie. Instead, he proved to be an important cog in the Lions defense and could be an exciting piece moving forward.

Paschal had a modest two tackles, but his stats don’t paint the whole picture. Paschal played 56 snaps on Sunday at a remarkable seven different positions. He looked good in run defense, and when he couldn’t make the play himself, he set up a teammate well to make it instead. Such a play happened on an Okudah run stop, where Paschal forced the running back to bounce outside into the arms of Okudah.

General manager Brad Holmes has taken some flak for the drafting of injured players, especially with Levi Onwuzurike undergoing back surgery this past week. While the initial panic surrounding Paschal was warranted, his talent was undeniable. That came to fruition against the Cowboys, and we can only hope this is a sign of things to come.

Shooting themselves in the foot

The 24-6 score is not indicative of how close this game was. Neither offense was overly impressive, but considering the mismatch between a playoff-caliber team and a cellar dweller, a close affair was a moral victory for the Lions. However, if it weren’t for a bevy of horrific self-inflicted wounds, it may have been a literal victory for the Lions.

As previously mentioned, Goff accounted for numerous mistakes that all but ended the game for Detroit. The two interceptions were bad enough, but his fumbles were inexcusable. The woes of the offense snowballed when Goff was forced to make plays. Worse yet, the supporting talent could not make up for it. Jamaal Williams fumbled the ball at the goal line and it turned out to be a significant turning point in the game.

Had the Lions avoided even one of these turnovers, the end result is likely different. Remove the interceptions, and perhaps the Lions continue their drive and put points on the board. If Goff doesn’t fumble, perhaps the Lions mount an actual comeback while the game was in reach. If Williams keeps the ball at the goal line, the Lions get another crack at the end zone on second down.

The Lions don’t have the talent to be a top-tier team, and they are doing themselves no favors with these mistakes.

We have a kicker?

The kicking situation entering the week was murky at best. The Lions were shutout against the Patriots, and a critical moment came when they opted for a fourth-and-9 instead of a 49-yard field goal. In the postgame discussions, Dan Campbell expressed discomfort with trying such an attempt, the opposite of a vote of confidence for your kicker.

Come the Cowboys game, the Lions did indeed attempt field goals, and Michael Badgley answered the call. Not only did Badgley notch a 40-yarder, but he got to prove his coach wrong by nailing a 53-yard attempt.

Given the inconsistency that has plagued the Lions kicking game, Badgley should not be proclaimed the kicking savior yet. That being said, he passed his first assignment.

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