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Four takeaways from the Lions’ loss to the Dolphins

At one point, it looked like the Lions and Dolphins were destined for a barnburner. Instead, one team fell silent while the other kept churning.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Detroit Lions Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions fell yet again, this time at the hands of the explosive Miami Dolphins offense. While the Lions offense had sparks of life, the defense fell flat against the quickness of the Dolphins. A first half littered with touchdowns gave the appearance of a shootout, but the Lions fell asleep after halftime.

What takeaways can be had as the Lions drop to 1-6?

Jekyll and Hyde offense

What a stunning turn for the offense. Having been shut out of the end zone in the previous two games, the Lions offense came out firing against the Dolphins. The Lions scored on each of their first half drives, notching three touchdowns and a pair of field goals. This was the Lions offense we had seen to start the season, a much-needed return.

Then it wasn’t.

The Lions would score zero points the rest of the way, and with the Dolphins offense continuing to roll—we’ll get to that in a bit—it was just a matter of time before another lead was blown.

It was a combination of factors leading to a lifeless second half. The first drive started with back-to-back-to-back penalties from the offensive line, forcing a first-and-30. That is an easy recipe for a punt. The following drive was marred with another penalty, a negative run, and a sack. Punt. The third (and what proved to be the final) drive of the game for Detroit had some promise, but it ended with a turnover on downs after a failed end zone shot.

Unlike in weeks past, it doesn’t feel like the offense played that terribly in the second half. People will talk about the failed fourth down that sealed the game, but aside from that, there wasn’t an obvious “What are they doing?!” moment.

A Nightmare on Defense

So much for last week’s performance.

While the defense looked decent (dare I say good?) against the Cowboys, they fell back to Earth against the Dolphins. The combination of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle proved impossible for Detroit to cover, and the two receivers had a field day. AJ Parker in particular had a rough outing, as the nickel corner was frequently left in the dust by the speedy wideouts.

Worse yet, the Lions were horrendous on third downs. Miami converted eight of 12 third down attempts, many of which were greater than 10 yards to go. The Miami receivers had comfortable bubbles all game long, and it gave Tua Tagovailoa an easy outing where his accuracy was hardly tested. The pass rush wasn’t especially formidable, but this was a byproduct of the secondary. The Miami receivers were getting open so quickly, the pass rushers hardly had time to get home before Tagovailoa had already thrown the ball. The Dolphins were getting ridiculous separation and Tagovailoa was frequently releasing the ball within two seconds—that is not a recipe for success for a pass rush.

Jared Goff had It

For all the criticism I’ve levied at Jared Goff for his recent performances, Sunday’s outing was a much-needed turnaround. Goff was nearly flawless in the first half and it showed. Perhaps the best improvement between this game and the last was his comfort in the pocket. Goff demonstrated the ability to step up into the pocket in the face of pressure, and it bought him a few big plays.

The Lions faltered in the second half, but Goff doesn’t deserve much of the blame. The Lions dug themselves a hole on the first drive, and few teams recover from a first-and-30. On the second drive, Goff took a sack, but it wasn’t an atrocious sack like we have seen in the past. It was arguably his worst play of the game, which is a testament towards his performance.

Goff didn’t have a great throw on the pivotal fourth down attempt, but the problem with the play was more so the call, not the execution. Needing a mere one yard, the Lions dialed up a play better suited for that aforementioned first-and-30. Considering how productive the Lions were with intermediate routes on the day, opting for deeper routes when they needed a single yard proved costly.

Of the five position players, Josh Reynolds was the most open as he ran his deep route. T.J. Hockenson was left in as a blocker. Amon-Ra St. Brown ran a five or so yard out, but he was well covered. D’Andre Swift was a check down option about three yards behind the line of scrimmage, but a Dolphins defender was close enough to make the immediate stop had the pass arrived. Kalif Raymond’s route was cut off by the broadcast, but at a glance, it looked like the corner was stride for stride with him. Barring another view of Raymond’s route, it seems like Goff made the right read, but it was a low percentage play.

We have danced back and forth about whether Goff is the future at the quarterback position, and I genuinely don’t know anymore. He can be great or he can be awful. The good Goff is worth having as a starter, but the variability might cost him.

I Know What The Lions Did Last Summer

Another Lions loss, another week of talking about the rebuild. It’s exhausting at this point, but I want to look some good and some bad from the Lions’ recent offseason.

Firstly, the 2022 draft class is looking quite impressive. Kerby Joseph and Malcolm Rodriguez were among the few highlights on defense, with the former recording another forced fumble and the latter recovering said fumble with a sack to boot. While Josh Paschal and Aidan Hutchinson didn’t have much impact on the stat sheet, they both have promise as key pieces of the front seven. When Jameson Williams and James Mitchell get more involved in the offense—Mitchell had a nice 14-yard catch—it could prove to be a very valuable draft.

On the other hand, we have also seen that the Lions did not do enough in the 2022 offseason. Due to a regression from Amani Oruwariye, the Lions are without any reliable cornerbacks beyond Jeff Okudah. Unless Jerry Jacobs can reemerge post-injury, the Lions secondary is in trouble. This doesn’t even include the safeties, a group that missed Tracy Walker, DeShon Elliott, and Ifeatu Melifonwu on Sunday. As for the linebackers, they lucked out with Rodriguez, but they need another player to pair with him. Alex Anzalone does not appear to be a long-term option, while it remains to be seen if Derrick Barnes can be that guy.

The Lions top-end talent was questionable enough, but their weak depth is showing as well.

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