“OH MY LANTA” sums up the emotions of Sunday’s game. It was the emotional unease to which Detroit Lions fans have grown accustomed over the years. The ending of this game had the recipe for a classic Sunday disaster and a “FIRE EVERYONE” headline on Monday.
Instead, on the road with 1:04 left and no timeouts, we got the Matthew Stafford moment we were waiting for all season. Instead of heartbreak, the city and team has hope, as the Lions sit at 0.500.
I sat socially-distanced in a garage with 10 people and watched this game from beginning to end. The emotions were mixed and the curse words were many, but I can tell you that, when Stafford had the ball on that final drive, everyone not only in that garage, but I believe in the entire state, knew that #9 was going to pull off a miracle for the 29th time in his career.
Let’s look at the Decent, the Good and the WTF from this Lions victory:
Despite Atlanta’s record, the Falcons came into this game with momentum after an impressive 40-23 win over the Vikings, where Matt Ryan threw four touchdowns and the Falcons defense nabbed three interceptions.
Although the Falcons threw for over 300 yards again on Sunday, Matty Ice was cooled down a little thanks to an emerging pass rush that included Romeo Okwara, Trey Flowers and company. An undrafted free agent, Okwara is starting to come into his own and was absolutely dominant off the edge. His effort resulted in the only two sacks on the day for the team, and a textbook chop move off the line that forced the game’s only turnover.
The Lions defense also held Atlanta’s run game to 65 yards and two touchdowns, one of which Lions fans are grateful for. They contained the edge well, and Detroit’s front-four had good penetration in limiting Todd Gurley and the play-action that would ensue.
Bob Quinn needs to show up to Kenny Golladay’s house with a mask on and a blank check.
Kenny G was absolutely dominant, and although the stat line (six catches, 114 yards) is going to look modest, he came through every time Stafford needed him to. He also forced bracket coverage and allowed the shallow crosses to open up, freeing up Marvin Jones and T.J. Hockenson. I am not comparing his ability to Calvin Johnson, but his rapport with Stafford has become very similar. Golladay has all the tools that you would need from your X-receiver and No. 1 option: the speed, hands, and catch radius are all in his arsenal. The tools and chemistry check off the $100 million box for me.
Finally, the Lions are winning games that they are supposed to win, and that is what good teams are supposed to do. They destroyed the Jaguars a week ago, and put together an impressive win on Sunday.
At 0.500, they are in the thick of the playoff picture, and with an extra playoff spot this year in a world of uncertainty, who knows what could happen. Matthew Stafford is playing like the dark horse MVP candidate that he claimed to be this offseason. This team was a play or two away from being 4-2 or 5-1. They are starting to get healthy and form the chemistry needed to make a run.
The biggest question that will always come up is, can they continue to perform with the talent that they have at consistent basis and not shoot themselves in the foot?
Speaking of consistency, the play calling on the offensive side of the ball has been absolutely consistently predicable and downright atrocious.
The same group of friends that I mentioned at the top of the article predicted every play on first down correctly before the snap even occurred. I understand getting the run game going, but when you develop a pattern of the same inside zone run on first down, you are going to continue to put yourself behind the down and distance mark.
I am not saying the run game was all to blame for the offense going 3-of-10 on third down; what I am saying right now is the offense looks vanilla and has no rhythm. If the run game is not working on first down, change it up with some bubble screens, RPOs, quick slants — anything that can get the ball out quickly and get your play makers into space.
The pass rush has gotten better, and has gotten more pressures; however, it is still not enough. This defense is generating 1.3 sacks per game, ranking 28th in the NFL. The lack of pressure is going to result in headaches on the defensive back end.
Either Bob Quinn puts his big-boy pants on and starts hitting the phones with the trade deadline two weeks away, or Matt Patricia shows us what kind of “defensive genius” he is, and what ultimately got him the job.
The schedule is not easy, but it is doable. The cap space and draft capital is available. So, if I am Bob Quinn, I am being aggressive, and leaving no stone unturned. The alternative is that, if he doesn’t do it and the team slips back, someone else next year is going to make those moves for him.
(Editor’s Note: As of press time, Carlos Dunlap has reportedly been traded to the Seattle Seahawks, while the Lions have acquired Everson Griffen via trade.)
(Featured Image Credit: DetroitLions.com)