In Detroit, the sky is falling after the Lions loss to the Chicago Bears, 28-13. Despite the 9-4 record, the boat is springing leaks, and the team is desperately in search of ways to keep this thing afloat for the next month’s worth of football.
As we’ll do every week throughout the season for this Detroit Lions team, we’ll comb through some of the advanced data courtesy of PFF that can help us better understand the football the Lions have played thus far—and what to look forward to in the coming weeks. Let’s take a closer look at the Lions by the numbers after falling to the Bears in Week 14.
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8.3 NFL passer rating
The Bears rank 19th in blitz rate this year according to Pro Football Reference, sending extra defenders on 22.3% of dropbacks. Against the Lions on Sunday, the Bears dialed up the pressure, blitzing Jared Goff on 11 of his 39 dropbacks (28.2%) which led to him positing an 8.3 NFL passer rating on those plays. Goff completed four of 10 passes for just 13 yards and an interception on those 11 dropbacks, and the Bears registered four pressures, a sack, and forced Goff into making two turnover-worthy plays.
In their Week 11 matchup, the Bears weren’t quite as aggressive, blitzing on just nine of 38 dropbacks (23.7%), but the results were pretty similar: three of eight passing for 30 yards, one interception, a sack, and a 9.4 passer rating when blitzed. Those results likely paved the way for Chicago to approach this one with a similar gameplan.
Further than 10 yards down the field and outside the hash marks, Goff was 0-4 with an interception in this past week’s loss to the Bears, so you’ve got to wonder if the book is out on how to stop the Lions offense. Not saying it’s simple as that and they’re cooked, Detroit was able to put together two impressive touchdown drives in the second quarter, but neither of those drives had the Lions in a spot where they had to complete a play of longer than four yards on third down with the exception of one play: a 5-yard reception by Amon-Ra St. Brown on third-and-8 that set up a fourth-and-3 try on the Bears’ 38-yard line, which they converted.
But to the point, there isn’t enough room to lay all of the blame on Jared Goff’s shoulders. He’s never been a quarterback without limitations, and anyone who has thought otherwise wasn’t serious in their understanding or expectations of the veteran quarterback. When the Lions running game disappears for stretches, Detroit shoots itself in the foot with penalties, or gets far too predictable in its play-calling on early downs, the offense itself crumbles. When defenses can pack in and congest the passing lanes over the middle of the field, this offense just hasn’t taken shots down the field—Goff is dead last (36th) in attempt percentage of 20+ yards passes (7.7%) down the field in the NFL. Whether that’s an offensive philosophy or an indictment on Goff’s ability to make those throws or some combination of the two, it renders this offense to a singular approach: death by a thousand paper cuts.
It’s going to be up to Dan Campbell and Ben Johnson to figure out how this offense can become more unpredictable with the passer they have under center right now because that much isn’t changing over this next month of football. How they go about getting the most out of Goff is the challenge this coaching staff will have to find an answer for down the stretch. Figuring out a way to take advantage of the blitz against Goff and varying the approach to early-down play-calling is something that just has to be done because if not, Detroit’s playoff appearance will be just that—an appearance.