Thanksgiving was not a holiday for the Detroit Lions.
The Lions’ loss to the Green Bay Packers marks back-to-back poor outings from the team. They were lucky enough to rally for a victory last week against the Chicago Bears, but an early deficit was too much to overcome against a Packers team playing at its best despite multiple injuries.
Yet again, Goff committed multiple turnovers and the defense failed to muster much resistance against their opponent. Sprinkle in some offensive line woes and special teams mishaps, and it was a recipe for disaster for the Lions.
What can we takeaway from this loss?
First half from hell
The Lions did not put their best foot forward to start the Thanksgiving festivities. Aside from the final five minutes of last week and the final two minutes of this week, it has been a horrific two-game stretch of football for Jared Goff. Goff had two fumbles in the first quarter, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Even when Goff held onto the ball, his passes were wobbly and off-target. The Lions had a dynamite first drive, then completely fell apart for the remainder of the half.
The offensive line in particular was to blame for the early struggles. A top unit for most of the season despite multiple injuries, Thursday’s game was the first time they showed vulnerability. This massively affected Goff’s play, as he was pressured a staggering number of times:
Halftime: Packers 23, Lions 6. #Lions QB Jared Goff was pressured on 45% of his dropbacks in the 1st half (9 of 20). That would be the highest he's faced with the Lions and 3rd-highest of his career if it holds.— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) November 23, 2023
Goff has always been a passer reliant on confidence, and he looked shaken on early Thanksgiving. The Lions dug themselves a hole far too early in this game.
The offensive line deserves its own section. Blame will be put on Goff for his turnovers or the defense for failing to stop the Packers, but the biggest issue on Thursday was the offensive line. Normally rock steady, they looked like a bottom-tier unit against the Packers.
The Lions were losing both phases in the trench. In pass protection, Goff was given little time or space to work downfield. The first fumble happened when Rashan Gary got a finger on Goff’s hand, while his second came on a scramble due to a collapsing pocket. The run blocking was not up to snuff either. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs had decent totals (averaging 4.5 yards per attempt combined), but a lot of their yards came on tough runs inside or speed on the outside. The run blocking was not its usual road grading self.
The Lions need a rebound from this group, since their offense falls apart without it.
The Lions defense gave Jordan Love nightmares back in Week 4, but it was all Love this time around. Love was nearly perfect on the day, throwing three touchdowns with ease. The Lions secondary was again suspect, a recurring theme so far this season. Packers wideouts were wide open for a majority of the game. When they were covered, the Lions defenders were failing to disrupt the pass.
Jerry Jacobs was picked on by the Packers, while Cam Sutton has not looked like a CB1 of late. Coupled with a pass rush yet again absent (zero sacks on the day) and a linebacking corps that was struggling to cover, it was easy pickings for Love. Whether it’s a cornerback or a pass rusher, the Lions need to do something to address their pass defense down the road. For now, they need to see a turnaround from the pieces they have.
Despite how poor the defense played, I think the offense deserves a majority of the blame. After the first quarter, the Packers led 20-6, though the defense was only on the hook for 14 of those thanks to Goff’s fumble touchdown—still not ideal, but not a total defensive catastrophe.
However, the final score wound up being 29-22, meaning that the defense allowed just nine points the rest of the way. Sure, Green Bay was coasting for most of the second half, but Detroit had a chance to make this game winnable. Instead, they were an ugly one-for-five on fourth down. One of these came on a fake punt, but it was the offense that forced them into such a situation in the first place. Not only was the offense directly responsible for a Packers touchdown on the fumble, the multiple turnover on downs were gifting Green Bay easy field position.
A good offense keeps their defense off the field, while a good defense keeps their offense on the field. This time around, it was the Lions offense letting the defense down.
Kalif quietly clutch
It might get overshadowed by an overall disappointing outing, but Kalif Raymond was quietly on fire on Thursday. He finished the game with five receptions for 90 yards, nearly matching Amon-Ra St. Brown (five catches, 95 yards). On a day when not much was working in the passing game, seeing Raymond step up was a positive.
Malcolm Rodriguez, fullback of the future?
With Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, and Jack Campbell leading the linebacking group, there was little leftover for Malcolm Rodriguez. Rodriguez was handling special teams and the occasional defensive snap, but the Lions coaching staff has gotten him more involved in a different way: offense.
Thursday was not Rodriguez’s first time playing fullback this season—his first time was in Week 7—but it was perhaps his most impactful. Rodriguez made his first career reception, and it was a glorious one at that:
The Lions have twice converted a linebacker into a fullback (Nick Bellore and Jason Cabinda) in recent memory, and given how successful Rodriguez has been in the role so far, he might be the third.
John’s Turning Point: The failed fake punt
One could argue that the real turning point was the Moon’s waxing gibbous phase, but on the field, the game felt lost after the failed fake punt.
The Lions had two critical fumbles worth mentioning beforehand. The first fumble, returned for a touchdown, made the score 20-6. The second fumble happened just three plays into the ensuing possession, crippling any sort of response from Detroit. Because of these fumbles, the Lions were playing from behind for most of the game and, worst of all, the offense looked bewildered.
This made them to take a risk that backfired massively. Hoping for a spark, the Lions attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from their own 23, but Green Bay sniffed it out. This set up the Packers for a short field and, in turn, and easy touchdown. This made the score 29-14, and it all but ended the game.
I think the fake punt was a mistake, regardless of the outcome, and Dan Campbell agrees:
Dan Campbell on the fake punt "That's a bad call on me. Shouldn't have done that."— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 23, 2023
You cannot risk such a move at your own 23-yard line. The deficit was 23-14 at the time with five minutes left in the third quarter, well within reach for an explosive offense like the Lions. This is not the time to make a panic move like that. Even if it succeeded, the Lions still would have had another 70 yards to go. Instead, the failed attempt and subsequent touchdown piled onto the misery that was that game.
Talk about changing the tide. Damn the Moon.