After elevating to 5-2 last week against the New Orleans Saints, many wondered could the Detroit Lions continue to their wining streak and increase to their overall record to 6-2 on the big stage of Wembley Stadium in London.
Although, it wasn’t the most impressive or even the most efficient win, for the second consecutive week, the Lions delivered a compelling fourth-quarter comeback, erasing a 21-0 deficit with 22 unanswered points in a 22-21 win Sunday against the Falcons in London.
- Every Sunday, the Lions rely on their defense to helped them win games. Although the Lions defense did not look ready to play when this game started as they allowed 21 points to be scored in the first half alone. The Lions top-ranked defense did eventually clamp down in the second half , as they held the Falcon to zero points scored in the second half, which was brought on by key pass rushes to force an important three-and-outs and cornerback Cassius Vaughn, who also had a key interception in the Lions comeback.
- The Lions may have been without wide receiver Calvin Johnson in this game, but as always this presented an opportunity for others to step up and in this case the main one that stepped up was wide receiver Golden Tate. No matter what quarterback Matthew Stafford did or didn’t do right, Tate was always right there to make a play and keep the Lions in it. He finished with seven catches for 151 yards and one touchdown, as he continues to be one of the more underrated play-makers in the league this year.
- Beyond Tate, I have also to give credit to wide receiver Corey Fuller. Not only did he step up and make some plays for the Lions in the open field but he also helped the Lions to move the chains in tough situations as he garnered some impressive first downs. I know when you look at his game stats of 3 catches for 43 yards, you may think that he didn’t have the most impressive game stat wise like Tate did. However, keep in mind that besides Tate, Fuller was the most consistent receiver for the Lions, proving my point that the Lions were right to bring him on the main roster.
- Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Tate and Fuller who stepped up. Running backs Joique Bell and Theo Riddick also quietly stepped up and had great games. When it comes to Bell, he did a great job of turning short yardage plays into big yardage gains and first down conversions especially in the second half. Then with Riddick, he was impeccable in both the running game and passing game, as he made things happen on the open field with his quick feet and vision. If you ask me, they were the silent heroes in this game for the Lions, not only did they kept the run game alive and allow the Lions to remain balance and control time of possession but they also made plays out of the backfield in the passing game, which proved to be key in the Lions limited but timely offensive success in the second half.
- Now, when it comes to quarterback Matthew Stafford, I wasn’t happy with his overall performance in this game. However, I did like the way that he didn’t give up in this game, despite his mistakes and overall short-comings. Regardless of the mistakes he made, Stafford always came right back and did his best to lead his team. While we may not like the way Stafford performed at times in this game, I think we have to credit his short-term memory and ability to come back on the field and lead his team to victory. Again, it wasn’t pretty but the Lions don’t win this game without Stafford, just like Stafford doesn’t win this game without the key players that I mentioned above.
- To be honest, the Lions don’t win this game without place-kicker Matt Prater. Not only did he make all three of his field goals attempts but he also made the game winning field goal from 48 yards. Again, it may not have been the most impressive considering Prater originally missed the game winning field wide-right. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the referees called a delay of game penalty which gave Prater another chance to win, an opportunity that he took full advantage of, which is what matters most at the end of the day. Beyond that, it was also nice to see Prater make all three of his field-goal attempts, even though two of them were from 22 yards and 20 yards.
- Matthew Stafford may have had some nice moments in this game as I mentioned above but for the most part, he was horrible in this game. While I’m sure everyone has their own ideas on what part of his game was flawed the most in this game, the area that stuck out to me was his inaccuracy and touch with the ball. If you go back and look at this game, the Lions’ offense had multiple opportunities to make plays both in the open field and the end-zone. However, thanks to Stafford inability to be a consistent accurate passer with touch, we saw a lot of receivers miss opportunities. At the beginning of the season, I said, that Stafford had improved in a number of ways, specially his footwork and his ability to have a short-term memory and move on from his mistakes. However it doesn’t change the fact that Stafford has been in-accurate passer all season long. While the struggles of the offense don’t solely fall to his feet, a good amount of blame goes to Stafford’s in-accuracy and lack of touch with passing the ball.
- Nevertheless, as I said above, the blame doesn’t fall all on Stafford. As always, I have to get on the wide receivers of the Lions, who were also key in the Lions struggles in this game. Now when it comes to receivers, I did see some bright spots like the ever reliable Golden Tate and the young stud Corey Fuller who I mentioned earlier. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Lions receivers continue to have problems getting open and making consistent plays when given the opportunity. As I mentioned earlier a good amount of the offensive passing struggles came from Stafford. Nevertheless, I still have to put blame on the receivers because there were quite a few times when Stafford had nothing but time in the pocket. However, since no one was able to create separation and get open, Stafford was unable to get the ball off and make a play. While I can accept that some of that credit goes to the Falcons defense, it’s still unacceptable that the Lions wide receivers are not able to get consistent separation.
- Another area that contributed to the Lions offensive struggles was the lack of a running game. Now I know that running back Reggie Bush did not play in this game due to injury. However, Lions running backs Joique Bell and Theo Riddick did prove that they were more than capable of carrying the load in Bush’s absence. The problem is that the Lions weren’t consistent in their play-calling when it came to running the ball. I know the Lions running game hasn’t been the best or even the strongest this season but that doesn’t change the fact that the Lions need to learn how to consistently run the ball to have success. If you think I am exaggerating, just look at the film. In the first half, the Lions offense struggled extremely because of the fact that they solely relied on the passing game. However, in the second half, they started to run the ball more and they saw the success of running the ball as Bell and Riddick did a great job of turning small yardage plays into first down runs, not to mention it allowed the Lions to control the clock and keep quarterback Matt Ryan and that talented Falcon offense off the field more in the second half. Again, I’m not saying that the Lions should have run the ball more than they passed. I’m simply saying they have to remain consistent with the run game, despite the early struggles that they may have.
- Defensively, I have to credit the Lions since they didn’t allow the Falcons to score any points in the second half. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the fact, that I saw way to many mis-tackles in this game by the Lions in this game. While I can understand that it isn’t the most easiest thing to do against talented group like the Falcons. It’s still inexcusable that the Lions defense miss so many tackles. To be honest, it was because of those missed tackles that the Falcons running game had success in this game and why the Falcons offense had so much success in the first half, oppose to second half, where the Lions did a better job of tackling. Although mis-tackling hasn’t been a huge problem this season for the Lions, I still have to bring it up, when it comes becomes problem regardless of whether the Lions win or not.
- Beyond that, the Lions also went back to being a penalty machine both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Offensively, every time the Lions seemed to be putting together a good drive, that drive quickly turned negative with costly penalties like holding, hands to the face and false starts. Then defensively, it was the same story, because as the Lions defense got big stops, we saw the Falcons move forward because of more costly calls like pass interference, defensive holding or encroachment. Although the Lions did step up and do a better job of not acquiring costly penalties in the second half, the Lions might have seen a much better execution and better final score in this game, if they hadn’t been their own worst enemy with the penalties.
- My only other negative for the Lions after that would be the missed turnover opportunities. I know cornerback Caissus Vaughn had a nice interception but beyond that the Lions defense didn’t do much as far as turnovers. The disappointing part about it, is the fact that the Lions could have had a total of four forced turnovers in this game instead one. You have to remember, that the Falcons fumbled the ball three times in this game. However, you would never know about the three fumbles because the Lions weren’t able to recover any of them despite being a good position to recover the ball and make a play. Don’t get me wrong, because I know recovering a fumble is sometimes easier said the done. However, for the Lions they missed three key opportunities to stop the Falcons from scoring and they missed three opportunities to give the ball back to their offense with a chance to score.
I’ve been saying for weeks, that Jim Caldwell and his coaching staff are slowly but surely changing the culture of the Lions. While some may disagree or say it’s to early to say that because the Lions haven’t officially made the playoffs yet. I still believe that it’s not to early to say that the culture is changing with the Lions.
The Lions are 6-2 right now and while there is still plenty of football to play. It doesn’t change the fact that the Lions are winning games despite their injury struggles and overall offensive struggles. I don’t know about you but in the past, the Lions wouldn’t have been able to win these type of games. However, thanks to the Caldwell and the ever-changing mentality in Detroit, the Lions are slowly but surely learning how to win game while still improving as a team, which is fine line for the Lions to be playing right now.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Producer of “The Morning Heat” on Hot 107.5 and Sports Editor of Radio One Detroit
For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.
Lions Score 22 Unanswered Points As They Rally Back To Defeat The Falcons In London was originally published on wchbnewsdetroit.com