A new season finds the Detroit Lions on the end of a loss that looked grisly to start, then gutsy and respectable to end. It was a tale of two halves, the best of times and worst of times, as famous football commentator Charles Dickens once said on the set of CBS’s “The NFL Today” in 1988.
I feel a lot better about this game than I did going into the half, and I think there’s positive notes to take away from this. It’s far from a moral victory, but I think given that Week 1 in the NFL is so whimsical and rough there’s no fault in seeing the positives as well as the negatives from this Lions performance. A buck short all the same.
D’Andre Swift and the ground game is real
Congratulations if you bought in on Swift for his fantasy production this year. Congratulations to Lions fans who held the torch for the man. The Philadelphia native looked the whole part against his home city’s club.
Do you remember from training camp and “Hard Knocks” how much assistant head coach Duce Staley was riding him? Do you remember all those talks about how he’s got to be ready to take those hits and cut inside and squeeze out every last drop on the field? If this first game is any indication, he took every last word to heart. He was the unquestioned star of this Lions offense, and the Lions should continue to feed him for the rest of the season.
There will be some that credits the offensive line for all of Swift’s success. That is incorrect. He certainly got support, but Swift was shifty, elusive and knew where he wanted to go. He was the lone bright point of the first half Lions offense.
But, sure, let’s talk about that offensive line help.
I’m not sure what I would do if 6’4” 310lb Jonah Jackson came steamrolling at me like this.— Cameron Hogwood (@ch_skysports) September 11, 2022
The Lions don’t seem to be missing Halapoulivaati Vaitai too much on the ground game right now. Jonah Jackson was a remarkable asset to help caravans. The tackles held off an aggressive Philadelphia Eagles pass rush.
It would behoove the Lions to continue to lean on these assets. This is what brought them here. Had they trusted the ground game more in the first half, they might not have been in the early hole so much.
Jared Goff got in rhythm too little too late
If anyone was hoping Goff would pick up from where he left off last season, they came out of this first half with dreams, feverish dreams crushed and scattered. Dust on the floor of history.
Goff got back to adequacy in the second half, but I don’t think there could have been a worse first half for the Lions quarterback. For much of the first half, Goff’s performance was janked. Miserable. Incapable of finding his targets, inconsistent to find the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t until the third quarter that he passed for more than 100 yards.
The Lions got back into this game with a mixture of moxie, defensive stops and yes, Goff finally getting in rhythm with his receivers. The problem is that Goff’s first half performance put the Lions in a hole they absolutely did not need to be in, and asked the defense to stand on their head on consecutive three-and-outs from Goff. The dropped snap that turned into a sack crushed another fantastic offensive drive in the third quarter.
Gutsy late performances by the defense come up short
Like Goff, the defense was a story of first and second halves.
For the record, I think Aaron Glenn had the game plan you wanted for the Eagles. But AJ Brown and Jalen Hurts gashed this team early, and a lot of that probably comes from being gassed. Give the Lions credit, they had to stand on their head for quite a while. Like last year, the Lions fought like hell to the bitter end. That has not ended. That has not changed. It will continue to be the case, and it’s a testament to Glenn, Dan Campbell and the entire coaching staff to connect with their players.
Nevertheless, the Eagles converted ten third downs and two fourth downs, the last of which iced the game. There was a little bit too much break and not enough bend.
But let’s also talk about Tracy Walker. He was a bright spot in the first half, but that’s all null and void when you do the things you do to get yourself ejected the way Walker did.
I get it, stopping a sliding quarterback in this league is a nightmare. It’s a nigh-unwinnable situation when you’ve got no clue when Jalen Hurts will slide, and a moment’s hesitation before committing to the tackle will get you into trouble.
But there’s absolutely no reason to turn a regrettable personal foul into a second personal foul and an ejection by throwing a punch. There’s no world anywhere where that is acceptable. Walker was ejected and it denied the Lions one of their best defensive backs for most of the second half. That can’t happen.
Extra Notes: Special teams????
The Lions kicked a miserable onside kick that was easily spied and turned into a touchdown drive at a point in the game where such risks were uncalled for. The defense could have easily held a longer drive and brought Detroit back into the game.
However, it did spook the Eagles so badly they burned a timeout on the subsequent Lions kickoff. I can appreciate psychological warfare.