The Detroit Lions were without wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush for Sunday’s contest against the Minnesota Vikings. However, the Lions didn’t let the absence of Bush and Johnson, stop them from winning a tough game on the road against the Vikings with a final score of 17-3.
Although, this wasn’t the most impressive win, it doesn’t change the fact that this was a good win on the road, that the Lions needed after losing to Buffalo Bills at home last week. Plus, this is a good confidence booster going into next week, as the Lions take on the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field next Sunday.
- The Lions may have missed running back Reggie Bush, but I was happy with the production I saw from running backs Joique Bell, Theo Riddick and George Winn. When it comes to Riddick, he only played in the first half. However, during the first drive of the game, he played a huge part in the offense’s success as he helped the team drive 80 yards down the field, while making a big play on a 40-yard screen pass that set up his nine-yard touchdown pass reception a minute later. Beyond Riddick, Bell was back to his own self as he rushed for the tough yardage, even rushing for 42 yards on six carries in the early part of the fourth quarter as he gave the Lions a three-score lead with a one-yard touchdown. Although Winn only received a little playing time in this game, he was an added plus, as he helped to fill the void of Riddick in the second half and he helped set up Bell’s rushing touchdown with a conversion on fourth down.
- Offensively, the Lions had their struggles in this game, but it was nice to see the Lions stay balance and keep moving the ball. Again, I know quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t have the best game but unlike last week Stafford did not turn the ball over and unlike last week he did a better job of spreading the ball around. It may have gone unnoticed since the Lions offense wasn’t great but the Lions did a good job of getting everyone involved. Last week it was all about Tate but in this game, Tate had seven catches, Riddick had five catches and Bell, Eric Ebron, Corey Fuller and Jeremy Ross all had two catches. Again, it may not be much, but it’s important this offense learns how to succeed without Johnson but it’s also important that they learn to spread the ball around and get everyone involved.
- When it comes to the Vikings, you may have noticed that they only had three points in their loss to the Lions. While some of that goes to the lack of offensive execution of the Vikings, it mostly goes to the great play of the Lions defense who forced three turnovers in this game. The first turnover came in the first quarter, when Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made an ill-advised throw into triple coverage, which was easily intercepted by Lions safety Glover Quin in the end zone. The next two turnovers came in the second quarter and third quarter, as linebacker Tahir Whitehead picked off two Bridgewater passes, which were huge in shifting momentum for the Lions offense. While it’s no surprise to see Quin or Whitehead make plays, it has been great to see Whitehead really step up and filled the void of Stephen Tulloch in the middle of the field, both in run defense and in pass coverage.
- Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Whitehead and Quin who were making plays for the Lions defense. The Lions defensive front line was also great in this game as they all got a piece of Bridgewater at some point in this game. While no one can deny that the entire front seven was great, it was defensive end Ziggy Ansah who stood out as he pressured Bridgewater all game and led the team today with 2.5. sacks, not to mention he had three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. If that’s not enough, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh also set the franchise record for career sacks by a defensive tackle when he took down Bridgwater twice in this game, giving him 30.5 sacks for his career, surpassing former Detroit Lion Shaun Rodgers.
- The Lions offense may have performed better in this game than they did last week but the Lions offensive-line woes unfortunately continued. In their win against the Vikings, Stafford was taken down four times, bringing him to a total of 21 sacks on the season. While that may not seem like a big deal, remember that Stafford was only sacked 23 times all last season. The sad part about this is the fact that the offensive line allowed to many Viking defenders to go un-touched in this game when pressuring Stafford. While I can’t confirm what the problem is, there is no doubt that some things have to change for the offensive line. The offensive line woes don’t stop there, I know the running game performed better in the second half. However in the first half, it was the same old story, as the offensive line did nothing to help the running get going, forcing the Lions to be more one-dimensional in the first half, than they probably would have liked.
- Beyond the offensive-line’s inconsistencies, I am still seeing inconsistencies from the wide receiving core of the Lions. I know above you saw me give them some credit and deservedly so for getting more involved. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Lions receivers aren’t getting open quickly enough. Last week against the Bills, with Johnson out, Tate was the only bright spot. It was in that moment, that I said Ross, Broyles and Fuller are all capable receivers with play-making ability and the fact that they couldn’t get separation or create consistently is something they need to change quickly. That being said I still feel that all three receivers need to do a better job of getting separation and making plays for this offense to continue having any forms of success.
- In addition to the offense’s execution woes, the Lions penalty issues have improved since the preseason. However it doesn’t change the fact that the Lions were their own worst enemy at times in this game with holding penalties on the offensive side of the ball and illegal hands to the face calls on the defense. Although, it wasn’t the biggest determine factor in the Lions struggles offensively, it did have an impact on their momentum offensively.
- After that, the final and most well-known negative impact has to be the kicking woes that continue for the Lions. After releasing rookie kicker Nate Freese and veteran kicker Alex Henery, everyone hoped that kicker Matt Prater would be able to come in and do what both Freese and Henery couldn’t do which is produce. Although, Prater did make a 52-yard field goal in this game, it doesn’t change the fact that he finished 1-of-3 in his debut with the Lions, as he missed a 50-yarder and 44-yarder in the win against the Vikings. While there is still a chance that Prater could be a good fit for the Lions, Prater’s early misses doesn’t help to ease the minds of others, when you consider that he only missed one of his 26 attempts all last year. Nevertheless, I’m not ready to say that Prater can’t be a consistent kicker for the Lions. Let’s see what he does next week against the Saints.
Overall, this was a solid win for the Lions. As I mentioned above, this is a win that the Lions needed to win after losing to the Bills. However, none of that changes the fact that the Lions still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve on. One thing’s for sure the Lions are changing and although it may not seem like it, this Lions team is changing.
As I mentioned before, the Lions may not be winning in this most impressive ways but they are winning the tough games in the past that they could have easily lost. If you ask me, a lot of that credit goes to great play of the defense and the coaching of head coach Jim Caldwell, his coordinators Teryl Austin and Joe Lombardi along with the rest of his coaching staff who are working hard to change the identity of the Lions.
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.
Great Defensive Showing And Offensive Improvement Leads To Lions 17-3, Victory Over The Vikings was originally published on wchbnewsdetroit.com