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Fluke Fest 2015: A Tale of the Lions First Quarter of Season

Train wreck!!!! Disaster!!!! Injury riddled fluke fest. Die refs die. These are the words to describe the Lions first quarter of the season. The Lions have had the worst possible start to a season with a 0-4 record and remain the only winless team in the league. Let’s take a look at the games and pin point the problems and strengths.

Week 1 at Chargers

The Lions had a great first half building a 21-3 lead. The offense was sharp on two offensive TD drives and Glover Quin had a pick 6 against Phillip Rivers and picked him off again to end the half for a 21-10 lead. The season was looking great despite Levy, Warford and Waddle missing the game.

The Lions proceeded to allow 30 unanswered points to San Diego due to poor coverage with the biggest TD allowed after a second pick of an injured (elbow) Matthew Stafford. Rashean Mathis, Stephen Tulloch and James Ihedigbo had awful coverage games and Keenan Allen exploded for 166 yards. The Lions added a garbage time touchdown to Theo Riddick for a 33-28 loss.

Detroit ran the ball well at 4.3 YPC and had good run defense on the day. Detroit forced 3 turnovers with 7 defensive points. Detroit also had good pressure as Rivers was the 10th most pressured QB in Week 1. Detroit just forgot how to play offense in the second half (with two picks and several punts) and didn’t cover Allen or tight end LaDarius Green. This was a terrible road loss after leading by 18 points.

Week 2 at Vikings

The Lions had their first division game on the road and second road game in a row. The coverage was better (only 153 yards) though Bridgewater only attempted 18 passes and was efficient (14 completions). Bridgewater was pressured over 40% of his 18 attempts but he was efficient enough with great run support. The Lions’ defense was awful as Peterson and Bridgewater ran wild and the Vikings had 199 yards rushing. Bridgewater scrambles on 3rd down were back breakers on TD drives. The Vikings have the best rush offense in the league and they made use of it against Detroit. Detroit fell behind 17-3 in the first half before a good second quarter drive cut the game to 17-10.

Detroit turned the ball over 3 times in the second half with fumbles by Lance Moore (who may have been down) and Theo Riddick (after converting a big first down). Stafford threw an interception on a screen to a defensive lineman. Detroit’s rush offense was poor. Adrian Peterson fumbled 3 times in the second half too but one was called back from a bogus offside and one Peterson recovered with Lions swarming around the ball. Detroit added a garbage time TD to fall 26-16.

Week 3 Broncos

Detroit had to dig out of a 0-2 hole in prime time on Sunday Night. Detroit did not protect Stafford against Ware and Von Miller or run the ball well (28 yards on 19 carries) at all in this game. Darius Slay gave up two big plays with good coverage but lost a jump ball to Demaryius Thomas for a huge TD on 4th and 1 very late in the second half for a 14-6 Broncos lead.

Detroit recovered a fluke fumble to start the second half and converted the short field into a TD but failed on the two point conversion with a terrible call to run up the middle with Bell. The refs didn’t want to give the ball to the Lions at first but replay confirmed the fumble. A whistle turned a defensive touchdown by the Lions into a short field though as the stretched ball by Thomas went off Mathis’ helmet while Thomas was reaching for a first down. Detroit converted the 28 yard short field into a touchdown with a very nice pass play to Ameer Abdullah. The Broncos lead was cut to 14-12. The Broncos and Lions traded punts on the next two possessions each.

The next drive Stafford was hit from behind while throwing and fumbled even though it looked like his arm was going forward. The refs awarded the Broncos the ball and they converted the short field into a field goal for a 17-12 lead.

Detroit responded by moving the ball into Lions territory. Lombardi’s predictability on offense and Stafford staring down his receiver resulted in the Broncos third safety Burton picking off Stafford. Stafford was picked for the same reason in the first half but the Lions were able to get an interception on their own after Ngata tipped a ball and Glover Quin made a diving second interception to negate the Broncos interception scoring chance.

The Broncos start at mid field after the second Stafford interception and Sanders makes a great 34 yard catch with on a jump ball against Darius Slay. Owen Daniels beats rookie burnt toast cunt Quandre Diggs for the back breaking 11 yard TD. 24-12. Game over. Home loss.

Week 4 at Seattle

Detroit was in prime time on Monday Night Football and had to save their season at Seattle. The Seahawks are much better at home and had Kam Chancellor back to fix their defense. Marshawn Lynch didn’t play which helped Detroit but Levy, Pettigrew and Warford remained out which aided Seattle. Ngata and Ansah were limited in snaps on this game due to a calf and shoulder injury.

Despite the injuries, both defenses played really well. Detroit pressured Wilson almost all day and had very good run defense. Wilson scrambled to avoid pressure and converted a 3rd and long making two Lions defenders miss and hitting an open Kearse after Mathis’s coverage broke down. Wilson then hit Doug Baldwin deep beating rookie burnt toast cunt Quandre Diggs for the 7-0 lead.  Detroit added a field goal on their lone good offensive drive of the first half. Seattle made a long field goal with more crazy scrambling by Wilson.

Detroit forced 3 turnovers and returned a fumble for a touchdown to get back into the game in the 4th Quarter down to 13-3. Detroit failed to convert two short fields after the first two fumbles by Seattle due to two offensive Oline penalties. Detroit’s defense did the work on the last fumble as Carraun Reid returned it for a touchdown. Detroit played great on defense in the second half and the offense  had a great final drive moving the ball from their own 9 yard line. Detroit started on their nine because TJ Jones stupidly fielded a punt at the 2 yard line. Despite great offense with big plays to Tate and Tim Wright, Calvin Johnson fumbled at the one yard line with 1:45 to play after converting a first down. KJ Wright batted the ball out of the end zone on purpose but the terrible refs are absolutely clueless regarding the rule book. It should have been 1st and goal for Detroit. 13-10 Seattle wins but this was a true Lions win.

Strengths

Detroit has generated good pressure. They have pressured the opposing QB 38% of the time. Detroit pressured the opposing QB 36% of the time in 2014 for reference. Ngata has 1 sack, 2 hits and 8 hurries which trump Suh’s 0 sacks, 1 hit and 9 hurries. Ziggy Ansah has 4 sacks, 2 hits and 5 hurries and Jason Jones has been good with 1 sack, 2 hits and 8 hurries. Tyrunn Walker had 0 sacks, 0 hits and 8 hurries (6 hurry day at San Diego) but broke his leg against Seattle.

Detroit actually has been good in run defense despite a terrible Week 2 against Adrian Peterson. Detroit is 5th best in the league allowing only 3.6 YPC. Considering the Vikings are number one in the league in rushing at 4.9 YPC, Detroit might have a pretty good run defense again. Ansah, Ihedigbo, Jones, Quin, Josh Bynes, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis have all been very good in run defense. Levy should return to boost the run defense as well.

Matthew Stafford is still a team strength. Stafford has completed 65% despite being under pressure on 39% of his drop backs (worse than last year) and only 2.6 YPC in run support (way worse than any team). Two of his five interceptions are not his fault (pressure by San Diego) and the two interceptions against the Broncos could be Lombardi’s fault. The lone fumble by Stafford was not his fault and this fumble may not even be a true fumble. Stafford has missed on some deep balls but has been making good decisions and leads the offense when he gets protection. Penalties, protection and run blocking is the reason the offense is hot garbage, not Stafford.

The Lions have plenty of weapons with Megatron, Tate, Ebron and Abdullah. Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are great receivers but praise goes out to Brandon Flowers/Jason Verett, Aqib Talib/Chris Harris Jr and Richard Sherman/Carey Williams for covering them pretty well in the first quarter of the season.

Weaknesses

Rush Offense

Detroit’s run game is a train wreck. Larry Warford has missed 2.5 games and Brandon Pettigrew has missed 3 games. LaAdrian Waddle has missed 2.5 games and has looked sloppy (in pass pro) returning from an ACL injury. Joique Bell seems super slow returning from a knee and Achilles injuries. Bell was out Week 4 with an ankle injury.

Swanson has been terrible with a -6.6 run blocking grade. Cornelius Lucas (-4.0) was terrible filling in for Waddle on the ground. Warford was poor in the lone game he finished against Minnesota in run blocking due to battling an ankle injury but solid against Denver.

The tight ends without Pettigrew have been very poor in run blocking. The Lions ran well Week 1 with Pettigrew at 4.3 YPC but the Chargers are poor in run defense. Rookie Laken Tomlinson has been poor at left guard in run blocking. Riley Reiff (+3.4) and Manny Ramirez (+3.3) have good run blocking grades and Abdullah looks decisive and quick in the holes. Rookie full back Michael Burton has been strong with a +2.7 grade in run blocking. Waddle has been solid with a +.7 run blocking grade. The run game is not a lost cause but Swanson, Warford (health) and the TEs need to figure things out quickly.

Protection

The Lions protection of Stafford has been terrible. Stafford has been under pressure 39% of the time. Riley Reiff was awful the first 3 weeks of the season but rebounded well at Seattle. Cornelius Lucas allowed 1 hit and 7 hurries filling in for Waddle. Waddle was even worse once returning allowing 1 sack, 3 hits and 13 hurries. Tackle is a major issue but Reiff may have fixed one problem. Swanson and Laken Tomlinson have been awful in pass protection too. Warford struggled against Minnesota but did well against Denver. Swanson and Tomlinson are two young players that need to grow. Detroit doesn’t have time to deal with inexperienced players going through struggles. Manny Ramirez has been good in pass protection as the lone bright spot. The trade for Ramirez with Denver is paying huge dividends. It’s up to Reiff and Waddle to fix this mess and Warford to return from his ankle injury to put Laken on the bench. Reiff and Waddle have proven in the past they can play well and Warford has been great in his first two years.

Coverage

Detroit is allowing 78% completion despite good pressure generated. The nickel backs have been a major issue with Josh Wilson and Quandre Diggs. Rashean Mathis had a bad Week 1 and Week 4 but a good Week 2 and 3. Mathis has a +1.1 coverage grade overall. Slay had one bad game in Week 3 (-3.2) but was good/solid the other three weeks (+.7, +.6, 0). The LBS are poor in coverage and Detroit severely missed DeAndre Levy. He should be back for Week 5 after two full practices.Strong safety James Ihedigbo had a terrible Week 1 but has been good the next three weeks.  Free safety Glover Quin is the lone consistent bright spot and has two of the Lions’ three interceptions. The Lions can cover (other than the nickels) but they need everyone on the same page each week and Levy back for the LBs.

Going Forward

Detroit must finish 10-2 to save their season. The schedule finally sets up nicely for them with 7 homes games and one neutral game compared to four true away games against weaker competition (sans Green Bay). However, injuries to Haloti Ngata (calf), Walker (broken leg), Ansah (shoulder/back), Warford (ankle) and Ebron (knee) might derail the comeback. I remain hopeful but even I’m nervous now about this Lions team.