Going into their first road game of the season against the Carolina Panthers, many fans and analysts debated whether the Detroit Lions would actually be able win this game because in the past this is exactly the type of the game that the Lions don’t win.
Although, no one can deny that the Lions have better talent and even better coaching this season. The Lions once again proved a lot of their doubters right as they loss to the Panthers in Carolina with a final score of 24-7.
While I don’t like to take anything away from the great play of the Panthers, who I thought performed well on both sides of the ball in this game. I must admit that the Lions lost this game because of a lack of execution on both sides of the ball and because of costly turnovers and penalties.
Turnovers and Penalties Cost The Lions Big Time
When you turn the ball over three times and account for multiple penalties, the chances of you winning the game goes down drastically and that’s exactly what happen with the Lions in their loss to the Panthers. Just like in the past, all three turnovers could have been avoided. When it came to the two fumbles that the Lions had, I blame the players who fumbled the ball, those players being running back Joique Bell and wide receiver Jeremy Ross. These guys aren’t rookies, they are young veterans of the game and they should be able to take care of the ball by now and understand that the Lions can’t afford any turnovers, if they plan to be successful. The sad thing is, they weren’t the only who fumbled the ball in this game. Wide receiver Golden Tate also fumbled the ball in the first quarter but luckily for him, the Lions recovered it. Although though it wasn’t counted as fumble, Bell also had an earlier fumble but the referees decided to call it incomplete pass instead.
Unfortunately, quarterback Matthew Stafford was right there with them when it came to turnovers in this game. Despite having a solid game in the first half, Stafford went back to the horrible habit of forcing passes to wide receiver Calvin Johnson down the field. Much to the dismay of the Lions, in the third quarter, he paid for it, as his under thrown pass to Johnson in double coverage ended up being tipped and ultimately picked off by a Carolina defender.
As I said earlier, each of these turnovers could have been avoided. When it comes to the fumbles, it’s all comes down to not taking care of the ball and there is never excuse for that. When it comes to Stafford’s interception, it goes back to Stafford forcing plays that are not there, instead of taking what the defense gives him and living to see another down.
Then to make matters worse, the Lions had unnecessary penalties on both sides of the ball, which also went hand-in-hand with the Lions loss on Sunday. Now did they have as many penalties as last week? No they didn’t, but that doesn’t excuse the costly penalties, that continue to hurt the Lions offensively and defensively. If you think I am exaggerating go back and look at the film. Offensively, you will see multiple holding penalties, which did nothing to help the offense and on defense, you will see quite a few penalties, including a pass interference call on cornerback Rashean Mathis which not only led to the Panthers scoring a late touchdown in the fourth quarter but it also led to the Panthers sealing their victory over the Lions.
While I would like to say I am surprised by the penalties, I can’t say that I am. I said it last week and I will say it again, the Lions nearly loss to the Giants because of costly penalties. The only difference was that the Giants didn’t capitalize off of those penalties and opportunities. However, like I said before every team won’t be like the Giants, and the Panthers proved that on Sunday, with a win against the Lions.
Leaving Points On the Field and Off the Score Board Hurts Offensive Execution
Another thing that Panthers proved that I brought up last week, is the fact that the Lions cannot and I repeat cannot leave points on the field. Last week when the Lions beat the Giants, I said the Lions should have had close to 50 points instead of 35 points. While some didn’t agree with me at the time, I bet many of those same people who didn’t agree, are now understanding exactly what I was talking about.
I know the penalties and the turnovers, were huge for the Lions in this game and as you saw above, I’m not disregarding that. However the three turnovers don’t change the fact that the Lions left points on the field, instead of on the board, which hurt them. If you ask me, the leaving of the points on the field, starts with the kicking game, or in this case, lack there of.
I understand that the Lions invested a seventh-round pick in kicker Nate Freese and that they have faith in the young rookie, but it ridiculous that he missed both field goal attempts in Sunday’s game. Bear in mind that with the final score being 24-7, the Lions still would have lost the game, 24-13, even if he had made both field goals. However, that doesn’t change the fact that those two missed field goals, didn’t help the offense early in the game, when the game was still close, which could have had an impact on how the Lions offense approached the rest of the game. Once again, I understand that head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff have confidence in the young rookie and that as a rookie he is going have some growing pains but if he can’t be counted on to make field goals consistently. Then the Lions need to have another option, who they can count on consistently.
Keep in mind that the lack of scoring doesn’t stop with the Lions lack of a kicking game. The leaving of the points on the field, also has to do with the execution of this offense. Despite, dominating the first quarter offensively with 126 total offensive yards, the Lions had no points to show for it. That same trend continued into the second quarter causing the Lions to go into halftime with zero points, while the Panthers had seven points. Then to make matters worse, the lack of execution would continue in the third and fourth quarters, as the Lions were only able to score seven points in this entire game, while the Panthers scored 24 points.
While I once again, don’t like to take away from the good defensive play of the Panthers. If you go back and look at this game, you will see that the Lions caused their own lack of execution, without any help from the Panthers defense. When it came to the passing game, I thought Stafford had a good start but as the game went on, he got into the bad habit of not spreading the ball around and only throwing to Johnson, who was being double covered. That being said, in the defense of Stafford, I also felt at times, the receivers didn’t do a good job of getting open and when they did get open I felt like the Lion offensive line, especially later in the game, collapsed to early, giving Stafford basically no time in the pocket.
Now I know that the Panthers have one of the better defensive front seven in the NFL and I respect that impact that they can have. However, I think the main reason the Panthers front seven was able to cause some much disruption in this game, is because the Lions didn’t remain balance offensively by running the ball.
Last week, I said the Lions did a good job of remaining offensively balance despite the fact that they only rushed for 76 yards. However, what the stats didn’t show you is that by running the ball continuously all game, the Lions stayed offensively balance allowing them to keep the Giants’ defense on their toes all night.
The Lions didn’t do that in this game against Panthers. I know if you look at the stats, you will see that the Lions ran the ball for 80 rushing yards which four yards better than last week. However, if you look at the film of this game, you will see that the Lions went through multiple drives, without running the ball once. While some may say that’s fine because the passing game was having successful moments in this game. Keep in mind that because the Lions stopped running the ball consistently, the Panthers defense was able to focus all of their attention on Stafford and the passing game, which as you saw led to more passes rushes and better coverage on the receivers in the open field.
Which leads back to my original point that the Lions must run the ball well and consistently this year for them to have continuous success offensively. When I say “run the ball well”, understand that “well” doesn’t always mean 150 plus rushing yards, sometimes “well” will means 70 yards rushing. It’s all based on their opponent and what their particular opponent’s defense brings to the table on game day. However, it doesn’t change the fact that by running the ball consistently, the Lions remain balance and unfortunately for the Lions they didn’t do that in this game.
Again, I’m not taking anything away from the Panthers good defensive showing but the Lions loss this game because of costly penalties and turnovers and because they left points on the field instead of on the board, which is due to a lack of offensive execution and an inconsistent running game. I don’t know about you but I find that completely unacceptable from an offense of this caliber.
Defense Plays Hard but Injuries and Lack of Offensive Execution Hurt Them in the End
Now when it comes to the Lions defense, I thought they did a good job of keeping this Carolina offense at bay in the first half as well as in the third quarter. I know you may be thinking, that the Panthers had 13 points to end the third quarter, so how is that good defense?
I say it’s good defense because despite being on the field multiple times and barley receiving a breather thanks to the lack of offense by the Lions. The Lions defense was still able to hold this good Panther offense to 13 points for three-quarters, which provided the Lions offense with multiple opportunities to score and win this game. The Lions offense just didn’t take advantage of those opportunities and that’s not the defense’s fault.
Nevertheless, I can’t deny that in the fourth quarter, the Lions defense let this game get out of hand. While some of that had to do with the multiple injuries that the Lions suffered defensively. I must admit that a lot of had to do with mis-communication and a lack of execution when it came to tackling in the open field.
If you go back and look at this film, you will see that the Lions defense, had way to many miss tackles, especially in the running game. I know the Panthers only rushed for 62 yards in this game but keep in mind that those missed tackles not only allowed the Panthers to remain balance, instead of one-dimensional but it also allowed them to move the chains consistently and get in the red-zone.
Then to make matters worse, there was a lot of mis-communication in the secondary. I don’t know about you but I saw Panther tight end Greg Olsen make about three wide open catches in this game, which allowed him to make plenty of plays after the catch. After that I saw wide receiver Jason Avant, who scored a touchdown in this game for the Panthers, also make a few a wide open catches, which once gain allowed the Panthers to move the chains and score.
I understand that is early in the season and that injuries on the defensive side of the ball didn’t help the Lions defense in this one. That being said, if the Lions plan is to have continuous defensive success this season, things like mis-communication in the pass coverage and missing open field tackles, have to come to and end. Period.
Again, I will give the Lions defense credit for the way the way that they held the Panthers offense in the first three-quarters of play. However it doesn’t change the fact that the defense gave up quite a few points in this game because of mis-communication and poor tackling.
Overall, I still believe that this Lions team is very talented on both sides of the ball and despite the loss, I still feel they showed nice growth both defensively and offensively.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the fact that the Lions have to put a stop to little things that they allow to become things big things, because if the little things continue to become big problems for the Lions. I can tell you right now that the Lions are going to have another long season, which is not what the Lions organization wants or what Lions fans want to see this season.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Editor of Radio One Detroit
For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.
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Lions Have No One To Blame But Themselves As They Lose To The Panthers 24-7 was originally published on wchbnewsdetroit.com