Heading into the game today, the Detroit Lions had one of their toughest tests of the season, going on the road again, this time to play the Baltimore Ravens. After defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road last week, Detroit was getting recognized by the media, and getting called a top-five team—some even believed they were the best team in the NFL right now.
This game against Baltimore wasn’t going to be easy as the Ravens were 4-2 with quarterback Lamar Jackson playing well this season, and the Lions' defense struggles with containing scrambling quarterbacks.
Detroit was without star running back David Montgomery, left guard Jonah Jackson, and cornerback Jerry Jacobs was a late addition to the injury report and missed the game. Detroit would get running back Jahmyr Gibbs, defensive back Brian Branch, and right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai back into the starting lineup. But Baltimore entered the game a little healthier than Detroit despite the long trip home from England last week. Though they were without starting safety Marcus Williams, the Ravens were starting to recover from injuries suffered earlier this season.
The Ravens' offense was able to dominate the Lions' defense all game long, moving the ball with ease no matter how they wanted to, as the Ravens tallied 503 yards of offense. It wasn’t just the defense that struggled for the Lions as the offense took a long time to get on the board, and Jared Goff faced pressure all game long.
Check out who I picked as my winner—and multiple losers—from the 38-6 loss against the Ravens.
The best player on the field for the Lions this week was Gibbs in his first game back since his hamstring injury. He didn’t get to run the ball often as the Lions were down for the majority of the game, but he was used in the passing game, both out of the backfield and in the slot as well. Gibbs had 11 carries for 68 yards and his first NFL touchdown, along with nine catches for 58 yards. He did a good job as the main back, having a better performance than he did against the Falcons earlier this season.
If he has games like this in a better game for the Lions overall, he will really be a spark plug for the offense. Hopefully, for him, he will be able to do more when the team is winning rather than losing.
Despite Branch returning, the loss of Jacobs was felt by the Lions' secondary as the Ravens had no issues passing up and down the field. Jackson had a great game, as he went 21-for-27 for 357 yards and three touchdowns. The defensive backs were not playing well in coverage, allowing a majority of the catches by the Ravens to be wide-open and uncontested.
Cornerback Will Harris had a rough game last week and he did so again this week, giving too much cushion to the wide receivers and letting the Ravens offense move with ease. Now, Harris wasn’t the only defensive back struggling in coverage, so he can’t be the only one to blame here. Detroit played against a good group of receivers, so the secondary is going to need to improve if they are going to win big games later in the season.
The Ravens ran a lot of RPO and the Lions were not prepared for it. They did well in containing Jackson, but while Jackson couldn’t run on those plays, there was always a wide-open receiver for him to throw to and get yards. Thankfully, the Lions don’t have to play a complex offense like this for the rest of the season as the Bears are the only other team that comes close to the Ravens, and without Fields, that eliminates that kind of threat.
Defensive line pressure
The secondary wasn’t the only issue on defense as the defensive line had trouble all day in stopping the Ravens’ run game and getting pressure on Jackson. Jackson was held to just 36 yards on nine carries and a touchdown, but he didn’t need to run with the poor secondary play, along with the lack of pressure from the Lions defensive line. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson had four tackles and missed out on a few chances for a sack. Defensive tackle Alim McNeill only had two tackles and couldn’t generate pressure.
Even if the Lions blitzed, the Ravens offensive line did a great job in giving Jackson time to throw the football. The best defensive lineman for the Lions was defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, who finished with four tackles and a tackle for loss.
With the secondary giving up easy yardage with their soft coverage, the defensive line needed to get pressure on Jackson and that didn’t happen. Jackson had all day to throw for most of the game and when your defensive line isn’t creating pressure, it makes it harder for the secondary to keep their man covered.
The whispers of Goff being a sleeper for the MVP race can be put to bed with his performance in this game. It was a windy day in Baltimore so while that could have affected how Goff played, Jackson’s performance eliminates the wind being the biggest factor in the worst game he played this season. Goff finished the game going 33-for-53 for 284 yards and an interception.
There were multiple factors in the game for Goff’s poor performance. First, the offensive line was blitzed heavily and Goff faced pressure all game long, getting sacked five times. He also threw multiple passes away as pressure came into his face.
Goff also did what he shouldn’t do when facing pressure: he panicked. In some of the pressures he faced, Goff would turn around making it easy for the Ravens to tally a sack. Goff didn’t just get sacked though when facing pressure, he fumbled the football twice, but was lucky it stayed in Detroit’s hands each time.
Outdoor games seem to be a rough thing for him, and thankfully for the Lions, they only have one more outdoor game this season, as they play the Chicago Bears in Week 14 at Chicago.
Despite getting Vaitai back at right guard to help bolster the offensive line this week, the group didn’t play well at all. Goff was sacked five times and there was miscommunication as extra defenders were able to get by the offensive line and get to Goff. Right tackle Penei Sewell was called for multiple flags, which hurt the Lions at the worst times.
The offensive line is missing Jonah Jackson, but I don’t think having Jackson in would have made a big difference in this game. The Ravens' defense was doing a great job at disguising their blitz plays and creating pressure. The run blocking did fine, as the Lions were able to get 84 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but it was the pass blocking that they struggled with the most.