Congratulations, dear reader. You scored as many points and converted as many fourth downs as the Detroit Lions did on Sunday.
In an utterly depressing shutout at the hands of the New England Patriots, very little went right for the Lions. From a lackluster offense to a beat-up defense, it was an afternoon to forget. The Lions enter their bye week with more questions than answers, and any high hopes from their early-season success are gone.
What takeaways can be had from this Week 5 loss to the Patriots?
Another week, another game-changing mistake
Dan Campbell knows more than anyone that he has made some poor decisions in recent weeks. It is nice to see a coach own up to his mistakes, but at some point, they need to show that they are actually learning from said mistakes.
Perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to his field goal mistake in Minnesota, but going for it on fourth-and-9 from the Patriots 32 down 6-0 might have cost them the game. Even with a new kicker on the roster, converting such a distance—especially given how lackluster the passing offense was entering the play—was a major risk. Analytics didn’t like it, and I’d wager most people felt the same:
---> DET (0) @ NE (6) <---— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) October 9, 2022
DET has 4th & 9 at the NE 32
Recommendation (MEDIUM): Field goal attempt (+2.2 WP)
Actual play: (Shotgun) J.Goff sacked at NE 45 for -13 yards (M.Judon). FUMBLES (M.Judon), RECOVERED by NE-K.Dugge pic.twitter.com/HVhdRkw59Q
Instead, the Lions fumbled the ball and the Patriots took it to the house. What could have been a 6-3 game suddenly became a 13-0 game with all the wind taken out of Detroit’s sails. That deficit soon grew to 16-0 and Detroit never came close. Even if the Lions missed the field goal attempt, it would have been 6-0 for a Patriots offense that hadn’t been too threatening on the day.
Decision-making has been a problem on a weekly basis. It is either time mismanagement, puzzling play selection, or downright awful execution. We are almost a year and a half into the Dan Campbell era, and the Lions are still costing themselves points—and possibly wins. The aggressiveness from Campbell is encouraging compared to some coaches, don’t get me wrong, but it is a double-edged sword.
The good has been outweighed by the downright awful. The Lions were 0-for-6 on fourth down against the Patriots, but I would only truly fault the aggressiveness on one of them. For each failed attempt, however, the play calling faltered heavily, either getting stuffed on a telegraphed run or throwing the ball short of the sticks. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has been a star to start the season, but this was by far his biggest hiccup.
Lifeless Lions football
These are the types of games I hate the most. There was no late comeback to elevate my nerves. There was no offensive explosion to keep me glued to the television. Instead, it was a slog of a game, one that felt like a chore to watch. For all the good that the Lions have done on offense, none of it came to fruition against the Patriots. The red zone woes in particular made for an unbearable experience:
7 trips into Patriots territory.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) October 9, 2022
0-for-6 on fourth down.
This was the worst possible loss to have entering the bye week. The Lions will have to rest for the next week with the taste of this game lingering. We can only hope that it results in some serious reflection from the coaches and players, because the Lions did not look like an NFL team on Sunday. To their credit, the defense wasn’t horrific, but against a third-string rookie quarterback making his debut, it was a low bar to clear.
The secondary is more of a tertiary
The Lions had a bad defense entering the season, but after five games, the secondary is a skeleton crew:
Saivion Smith— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) October 9, 2022
all injured in this game.
With Amani Oruwariye and JuJu Hughes inactive, the football gods decided to punish the Lions with a string of injuries. Saivion Smith and DeShon Elliott needed motorized transport to leave the field. The starting cornerbacks, Jeff Okudah and Will Harris got banged up as well, the latter missing a sizable chunk of the game with a groin injury. Adding insult to injury—no pun intended—but Kerby Joseph and Ifeatu Melifonwu were also nursing injuries on Sunday. The secondary suddenly consisted of Chase Lucas (at safety) and Bobby Price, which unsurprisingly led to an easy Patriots touchdown.
On the bright side, Elliott’s injury was listed as cramping and he was able to return to the field, so it shouldn’t be a long-term issue. That being said, it’s hard to see a positive path forward for the Lions. The only possible respite is the lingering return of Jerry Jacobs, but with so many injuries in the secondary, will it even matter?
More than just a game
There are moments when you need to step back and look at the game of football and how brutal it can be. Saivion Smith’s injury looked tame at first, but when a spine board and ambulance were quickly brought out, it became serious. It is a grim reminder that these football players we analyze and debate on a weekly basis are people too. Seeing Smith’s family joining him in the ambulance added to the concern. We cannot speculate on the extent, but neck injuries are often dangerous and scary injuries. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how it impacts the Lions’ defense or even the outcome of the game. All you want is to make sure this young man is okay.