The Detroit Lions suffered their second loss of the season on Sunday, this time to the Baltimore Ravens. It was, quite frankly, a pathetic showing for the Lions, as Baltimore walked all over them. The Ravens did whatever they wanted on offense, and Detroit had absolutely no answers with the ball in their own hands until the outcome of the game had already been decided.
So, you better prepare to get your parents’ signature, Dan Campbell, because this is going to be an ugly report card.
Jared Goff was not exactly set up for success on Sunday. The team had to quickly abandon the run game, it was windy outside, and yet another offensive line shakeup didn’t appear to make pass protection any better.
That said, one quarterback on the field didn’t seem to have much trouble making plays while Goff did. His passes were wobbly, his comfortability in the pocket was gone, and he seemed far more panicky than he had in previous games. And after being praised all last week for his pre-snap reads, it seemed Goff had trouble diagnosing where pressures were going to come from early and often on Sunday.
Running backs: B
Jahmyr Gibbs was quite literally the lone bright spot on Sunday. Granted 112 of his 126 scrimmage yards came in the second half when the game was over, but still, no one else was consistently making plays at any point in the game. On a day we’re desperately looking for positives, the incredible acceleration (that looks effortless) displayed here by Gibbs is near the top of the list:
Tight ends: B-
Another solid day for Sam LaPorta, who made a couple of tough, physical catches. He turned seven targets into six catches for 52 yards. But not much else to say from this group.
Wide receivers: D
Amon-Ra St. Brown had a couple uncharacteristic drops, but the main problem with this unit is that they just didn’t seem to be finding any separation all day. Just about every third down, Goff was trying to fit the ball in an impossibly small window.
Then there’s Jameson Williams, who failed to catch a single one of his six targets. Sure, five of those came in the second half with the game already over, but it’s still extremely disheartening watching Williams struggle in just about every facet of the game. His chemistry with Goff is nowhere close, he’s having trouble running clean routes, his tracking of the ball is awkward, and the hands remain a serious problem. He may not have a ton of experience under his belt, but there should be far more improvement in his game than we have seen because the physical talent is all there.
Offensive line: F
Five sacks. Eight quarterback hits. Two holding penalties. Thirteen rushing yards in the first half (on four carries).
We knew the Ravens were going to be a tough matchup with the amount of disguised pressure they bring, but if we’re going to call this offensive line elite, they need to play like it against tough competition.
Defensive line: F
The Lions did a decent job keeping Lamar Jackson in the pocket for most of the game. He managed just 36 rushing yards. The only problem is that keeping him in the pocket isn’t enough. Once the pocket is collapsed, someone has to go out and take the quarterback down. No one on the defensive front was to the task, as Jackson wasn’t sacked a single time and Detroit managed a single quarterback hit. Jackson gladly stood tall in the pocket and diced the Lions defense apart.
Even Detroit’s stout run game collapsed later in the game, with the Lions forfeiting 110 rushing yards on just 18 carries from the Ravens running backs.
After the game, coach Dan Campbell talked about the lack of discipline on defense, and that was plain to see for the Lions linebacking corps. Rookie Jack Campbell lost contain several times on the edge, biting on play-action or read options. Far too often, linebackers were too eager to leave their assignments to try and take Jackson down, resulting in wide-open running backs, tight ends, or even fullbacks for huge explosion plays.
This was a pretty atypical performance from this group, so hopefully they bounce back quickly. But I thought the linebacking corps was the biggest issue on the field Sunday.
The defensive backfield wasn’t far behind on the list of biggest struggles. Will Harris was put into a tough position to fill as a last-minute injury replacement for Jerry Jacobs, and it did not go well. There were miscommunications on the back end, poor tackling from the secondary, and just plain bad coverage.
The Lions played a little more man than they had in previous weeks, and even veteran Cameron Sutton seemed to struggle in that role.
They weren’t helped out by a pass rush that allowed Jackson to spend all day finding an open receiver, but when the Lions desperately needed a play, the secondary didn’t make one. Zero pass breakups on the day.
Special teams: C
Jack Fox was excellent, averaging 46.0 yards per punt with exactly zero return yards. But on one of those kicks, Chase Lucas ran into the returner early, giving Baltimore 15 free yards. The Lions’ return game remains fine.
Campbell immediately pointed to execution problems as the reason Detroit underperformed, but I think there were several poor schematic and personnel choices made on Sunday.
First, I’m not sure this was the week to shake up the offensive line to get Halapoulivaati Vaitai back in the game. Chemistry is so important on the line—in particular, against a team that disguises looks so well. So force-feeding Vaitai back at right guard, while making Graham Glasgow shift to left guard—where he barely repped at all this offseason—was a questionable choice.
Defensively, coordinator Aaron Glenn can’t seem to crack the mobile quarterback code. Detroit’s overall philosophy to collapse the pocket just hasn’t worked. They told us all week how good Jackson has been in the pocket this year, yet they didn’t seem to have any interest in getting him off his spot. They succeeded in limiting his rushing yards, but we knew he could—and would—hurt them with his arm in this new pass-focused offense.
Offensively, I have to question the game plan, too. When I asked Campbell on Friday how the offense was going to change with Gibbs in for David Montgomery, he basically said they weren’t changing anything.
“Ultimately, we’re going to keep what we do well and what our O-line does well, our tight ends and – because we believe he can – we don’t think he’s just some, ‘Hey, you just got to get on the perimeter. He’s not an inside runner.’ We don’t believe that. So, we’re keeping the identity of what we do and the core of what we do in the run game, so that won’t really change.”
Against a tough, physical defense like the Ravens, trying to physically impose your will with a 5-foot-9, 200-pound running back didn’t make much sense. So the Lions quickly found themselves in third-and-longs in each of their first three possessions after minimally successful runs on early downs and failed to convert each. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson needed to come out of the game a little more aggressive, particularly when it was clear the Lions defense was not at its best.