Setting the Stage
Cards are 2 & 0. Lions are 0 & 2. In an environment of overreaction, Kliff Kingsbury is up for "Coach of the Year." Just two games into this unusual season, Lion fans are screaming for Matt Patricia's head
Assuming that the Detroit media is accurate in their assessment of the Lions - just about every aspect of Lions' football play (other than their OL, rookie TE, Hockenson and we know what Stafford can do to you when he's on a hot streak) ) has been called into question.
When things go south this early in the season, a team can either go "north or head "south" - either a sense of urgency sets in and they turn things around right now or feelings of lethargy or negativity set in and the players shift their focus toward their stock portfolios or off-season condo hunting.
Talent-wise, the Cardinals have improved enough to be a force to be reckoned with on offense and fundamentally more sound on the DL and LB rushing the passer and stoppimg the run.
But the Cards are a young football team, and (as their second half drop-off in production vs, Washington indicates) can be tempted to get just a little overconfident. If they assume the Lions will play the role of "patsies", they do so at their peril.
Either they figure to win big vs. a struggling Detroit football team or they can find themselves in the Cat Fight of the Century. Gut check time.
Most Recent Lions Game
Lions lost to the Packers 42 - 21. Key factors: Penalties, turnovers, missed tackles and an inability to stop the Packers' rushing attack. After jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, Detroit's play turned sloppy on both sides as they gave up 28 unanswered points. They are now to 0-2 to start the season and 0-2 in the division.
Running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. scored early for the Lions, but Detroit allowed touchdown passes and a pick-six ( Matthew Stafford threw to GB QB Chandon Sullivan. Detroit had some untimely penalties, 4 sacks, but the Stafford turnover in the third quarter was a big one.
Detroit trimmed their deficit to 34-21 early in the 4Q on a 24-yard pass from Stafford to Marvin Hall, but Green Bay came right back with a 14-yard Jones TD
Rodgers vs. Stafford - : Aaron Rodgers wasn't his sharpest, but he didn't need to be with how the Packers ran the ball. He completed 18-of-30 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns for a 107.6 passer rating. Stafford completed 20 of his 33 pass attempts for 244 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He had a 91.0 passer rating for the contest. TE T.J. Hockenson led the Lions with 62 receiving yards on four catches. He's caught all nine of his targets the first two games (with one TD)
Worrisome Trend: For the second straight week, the Lions had no answer for the run game.- the Packers racked up 259 yards and two touchdowns (the most rushing yards the Lions have allowed since 2011).
No significant injuries to report for the Lions.
Lions Offensive Starters
QB ...09 Stafford...04 Daniel
RB....33 K Johnson...28 A Peterson...31 T Johnson...32 Swift
WR... 19 Golladay...87 Cephus
WR .. 11 M Jones...17 Hall
TE...88 Hockenson...83 James...86 Bryant
LT....68 Decker...67 Nelson
RG...73 J Jackson...76 Aboushi...79 Wiggins
RT....72 Vaitai...65 Crosby
Lions Defensive Starters
DE...90 Flowers...95 R Okwara...99 J Okwara
DT...71 Shelton...91 Penisini
DT...97 N Williams
LB...52 C Jones...44 Maybin...55 Lee
LB...40 J Davis...51 Tavai
LB...58 Collins...59 Ragland...45 Cabinda
CB...23 Trufant...29 Roberts
CB...34 Oruwariye...30 Okudah...34 McRae
S......21 T Walker...25 W Harris
S......26 Harmon...49 CJ Moore...35 Killebrew
Rush Yds Per Play........4.5........6.5......................5.0.............5.0
Pass Yds Per Play.......7.2.........7.3.......................6.6............7.3
Time of Possession.....28:04.....31:55................32:35........27:24
Lions Player Stats
Murray 52 of 78 for 516 yds 66.7% 2 TDs 2 Ints
Stafford 44 of 75 for 541 yds 58.7% and 3 TDs
Murray 21 for 158 3 TD
Drake 36 for 146 1 TD
A Peterson 21 for 134
K Johnson 15 for 46
Hopkins 25 Tgt 22 for 219 1TD
Fitzgerald 12 Tgt 11 for 84 0 TD
Hockenson 9 for 118 LG 29
Amendola 7 for 10 LG 32
Cephus 6 for 97 LG 36
M Jones 8 for 78 LG 21
Swift 8 for 75LG 17
T Walker 11
B Baker 20
Excerpts from beat writer Jeremy Reisman's DetroitOnLion position by position report card:
Matthew Stafford was not sharp at all in this game. He was inaccurate, he took more unnecessary sacks, and, most importantly, he made another critical error that erased any small chance of winning.
After Jamie Collins Sr. finally forced the Packers to a punt with a third-down sack—Stafford’s rebuttal was to throw a pick-six on the very next play. (Stafford a 12-year veteran who got played by a 24-year-old DB in his second career start. You just can’t do that).
Running backs: B
After the devastating drop last week, you'd love to see D’Andre Swift respond by catching all five passes thrown his way vs. GB. He’ll continue to be a nice offensive weapon in the passing game, as the Lions slowly work him into the running game, as well.
Kerryon Johnson had an excellent bounce-back game after many were writing his eulogy. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson ripped off another big 25-yard run early in the game. It’s a shame the score dictated that the Lions move away from the running game, because that was the one thing that was actually working on Sunday.
Wide receivers: D
To put it bluntly, the Lions receivers were blanketed by Packers defenders all game. Stafford had trouble finding any open receivers. Marvin Jones Jr. lost his battle against Jaire Alexander. Meanwhile, the Lions didn’t get meaningful contributions from Quintez Cephus until the game was already over.
Tight ends: C
T.J. Hockenson had a big 1H, hauling in three passes for 58 yards. But he completely disappeared in the 2H. (When your team is down three scores in the 2H and your top-10 draft pick isn’t part of the game plan, something is wrong.
Meanwhile, rumors this offseason that Jesse James would be more involved in the passing game this year have been extremely exaggerated.
Offensive line: D+
Oday Aboushi did some heavily lifting to drag this entire unit down. Not only did he give up a handful of pressures, but he also committed a drive-killing personal foul with a late, stupid hit. Aboushi then followed it up with a holding penalty that stopped the clock during a later play whose entire purpose was to run the clock.
Lions have to consider getting a different replacement for Joe Dahl than Aboushi, because his performance was uniquely terrible.
Elsewhere, Tyrell Crosby struggled a bit, while the usual suspects—Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow—were fine.
Okay, normally I would split things up by unit, but to save some time, everyone gets an F.
DE Dnsive Line F
Creating no pressure. Da’Shawn Hand didn’t do enough to accommodate the loss of Nick Williams. Trey Flowers didn’t even crack the damn box score.
Remains the bane of this defense’s existence. They’re consistently filling the wrong run gaps and missing tackles. Their coverage abilities remain terrible, whether they’re in man or zone. Crossing route after crossing route, we saw our LBs running into their own guys, leaving a receiver wide open.
Do we want to talk about the countless defensive holding penalties from this unit? Or how about Jeff Okudah’s concerning NFL debut? Or how about the fact that both Will Harris and Duron Harmon took god-awful angles on Aaron Jones’ 75-yard touchdown? Harmon made a couple of good plays in pass defense, but that is not enough to save a unit that couldn’t make a single play when they needed it.
Here’s the glum reality of the defense right now:
They’ve given up the third-most points in the league (34.5 PPG)
They’ve given up more rushing yards than anyone in the league (204.0 per game)
They’re allowing 6.5 yards per carry, which is almost a full yard more than the next worse defense (Texans, 5.6)
They’ve forced zero turnovers and generated just two sacks
Special teams: C+
Jack Fox continues to absolutely murder the ball. This week he upped his average from 49.3 yards per punt to 54.2(!!!). He pinned another two inside the 20-yard line and didn’t surrender a touchback.
The Lions have now allowed a total of just 6 yards of punt return through two games thanks largely to great punting from Fox.
Unfortunately, Jamal Agnew had a dumb personal foul penalty that caused the Lions to start at their own 10-yard line. The next play was a pick six. Yikes.
First, let’s talk about in-game management issues. There weren’t a ton this week, but I do feel like the bad ones they made had a deep impact on the outcome.
One of the biggest turning points came with 1:48 left in the first half. The Lions had the ball with a 14-10 lead and an opportunity to extend that before halftime.
It became clear that the Lions’ priority was not to score, but to make sure Aaron Rodgers didn’t get the ball back. (it showed the true intentions of this coaching staff. They played passively. They played scared).
Oday Aboushi committed a killer holding penalty that caused Rodgers to get the ball back with over 1:00 left instead of 0:20. A potential FGl quickly turned into a TD, and the Lions forfeited a lead they never saw again.
A few possessions into the second half, the Lions found themselves down 31- 4th-and-1 from their own 34-yard line. With his defense showing no signs of life, it was for Matt Patricia to get aggressive and go for it. He didn't.
01 Murray, xx Streveler, 07 Hundley
41 Drake, 29 Edmonds, 26 Benjamin
WR - 11 Fitzgerald...17 Isabella
WR - 13 Kirk....19 KS Johnson
WR - 10 Hopkins 16 Sherfield
TE - 87 M Williams 82 Arnold 81 Daniels
LT- ...74 Humphries...66 Miles, 79 J Jones
LG - 67 Pugh 73 Garcia
OC- 52 Cole 65 Galliard
RG- 64 Sweezy. Murray
RT - 68 Beechum 71 J Murray
Defensive Interior Line
DT 94 Z Allen 95 Fotu
NT - 98 Peters, 92 Lawrence
DT RDE - 97 Phillips 92 Blackson
OLB - 55 C Jones 49 Fitts 45 Gardeck
ILB - ..59 Campbell 48 Simmons 47 Z Turner
ILB - 58 Hicks 51 Vallejo
OLB - 42 Kennard 43 Reddick
CB - 21 P Peterson...27 K Peterson
CB - 20 Kirkpatrick 33 Murphy Jr
S - 34 J Thompson 38 Banjo 28 C Washington
S - 32 Baker...35 D Thompson . 40 Tillman*
Matchup: Detroit Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Stafford completed 58.7% of his passes, for 541 yards and 3 TDs. He spreads the ball around pretty well, with Hockenson targeted 9 times, M Jones and Amendola targeted 14 times, Cephus targeted 13 times, Swift 10 and Hockenson 9. But in terms of pure productivity. His favorite receiver appears to be his TE (Hockenson) who has been targeted 9 times with 9 completions and 1 TD. The return of Golladay from injury may shake up these numbers and upgrade the passing game.
50% of Card secondary is rock solid with P Peterson and Bubba Baker, andthe other 50% at least competent with Kirkpatrick and Banjo holding down the fort and Murphy more than adequately holding his own in the slot. Cards seemed to have used Campbell to address their weakness covering the TE
Key Matchups - Golladay vs P Peterson; Hockenson vs. Campbell. Detroit OL vs C Jones and rest of Cardinal front 7.
Matchup: Detroit Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Lion rushers are headed by Adrian Peterson (We're fairly sure AP would love to post some big numbers on his former team's rush defense). Not so fast - Lion ground yardage is well below 100 yds totalled for two games.
Key Matchups - A Peterson vs Cardinal Front 7.
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Detroit Pass Defense
So far this season, most of Tyler Murray's air attack has gone in the direction of DeAndre Hopkins (25 targets of 45 for the rest of the Cardinal receiving corps. But that doesn't mean that Larry Fitzgerald is chopped liver or that Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella can't post chunk yards on a more limited level.
To give the OL all the credit for protecting Kyler Murray from opposing pass rushers would to do his legs a disservice. Not only does he prove he can beat you with his feet; he can also beat you with the threat of a breakaway (i.e. he helps keep the defense honest).
Safety Tracy Walker (3 passes defended) also leads the Lions with 11 tackles. Depth chart lists Trufant and Oruwariye as their two starting corners. While Oruwariye ranks in the top 10 players in both tackles and pass defense, the stats suggest that Trufant may be playing the "back nine" of his football career.
Hopkins vs. Oruwariye. Fitz, Kirk and Isabella vs. Lion secondary
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Detroit Run Defense
Lions of averaged 4.5 yds per running play, but by comparison, their defense has surrendered 6.5 ypc.
Cardinals are beginning to figure out how to use Drake and Murray to compliment one another in the running game,
Nevertheless, the Lions have held opposing runners to 63 yards per game. All of which means that the Cards shouldn't abandon their running game (balance is essential to KK's offense) but they cannot assume that all will be AOK either
Drake vs. J Davis. Cardinals OL vs. Niner Front 7.
Detroit Special Teams
K .05 Prater
P .....03 Fox
LS 48 Mulbach
KR .39 Agnew
PR 39 Agnew
Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ....05 Gonzalez
H - ...02 Lee
LS - 46 Brewer
KR -17 Isabella
PR - 17 Isabella
Matchup Lions Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Prater is connecting with 60% of his FG tries (struggles a bit on deep tries). Gonzalez hit for three FGs vs. Washington. Lee is a solid punter. Isabella is unproven.
Agnew is averaging 31.0 yards per return. (Memo to KK - Don't let long returns by Detroit on STs beat us).
We'll give Gonzalez the edge over Prater but Fox edges out Lee in the punting game. Agnew gets the edge over Isabella in the return game (but that could change).
What’s one thing that has you optimistic about the Lions' future?
Beat writer, Jeremy Reisman's answer:
"The offensive line.
The Lions just locked up their left tackle for the foreseeable future, and his play has continued to improve over the past couple years. Frank Ragnow is currently the No. 2 ranked center by PFF. Rookie Jonah Jackson looked much improved in Week 2 after some struggles in his debut. And even Joe Dahl is starting to look like he could be a full-time starter.
Throw in fourth-round rookie Logan Stenberg, and you’ve got an offensive line that has at least three potential above-average starters and potentially more.
It’s not much, but this team has struggled to put together a solid offensive line for so long. It finally feels like they’re making some headway there, though, and that could be good news for whatever quarterback is playing for this team in 2021 and beyond."
Patriciai is on the hot seat.
How to Beat Lions
Up and down the depth chart, the Cards seem to have the more talented group of football players, but Stafford is capable of lighting things up like a Christmas tree, Hockenson is one of the promising young TEs to comee along in recent history and we don't know what kind of impact the returning Golladay will bring.
I think that KK and Murray (& the defense) have figured out what it takes to win. If they grind hard, avoid dumb mistakes aand make use of their god-given talent, they should prevail. But the temptation for many a successful young team is to take their foot off thegas pedal and forget what got us there. Don't do it - grind away.