Game Observations: Detroit Lions Quick Start

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Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford walk into a bar.

The Bar loses.

The Detroit Lions beat the New York Giants on Monday Night Football and yours truly managed to correctly predict the final score of 35-14. Here is what I liked, what I hated, what concerns me moving forward, and what encourages me moving forward for the Detroit Lions.

What I Liked: Quick Start for the Offense

The Lions got off to a quick start against the Giants scoring on the first two drives. The Lions won the toss and received the kick and scored a touchdown when Matthew Stafford eluded pressure (including a nice juke) and threw the ball to a wide open Calvin Johnson. After the Lions forced the Giants to punt, Stafford led another drive that ended with another touchdown pass to Johnson. This is a welcome improvement, early on this season, from previous seasons in which the Lions struggled early on in the game to get going offensively. The Lions moved the ball quite well in the first half, and the only thing stopping the offense was the Lions themselves. Which leads me to my next topic.

What I Hated: Penalties Galore in the First Half

Despite outplaying the Giants badly in the first half to the tune of 227 offensive yards compared to the Giants 75, the Lions went into halftime leading only 14-7. The reason? Key penalties at bad times of course. two offensive drives were stalled by both a holding call and a personal foul call on Dominic Raiola for grabbing and pulling a face mask. The Giants only touchdown came on a drive that should have ended on a punt, but roughing the kicker was called on backup safety Jeremy Couplin and the drive continued. Overall, the Lions had eight penalties for 85 yards in the first half of the game. While they did clean it up in the second half (they had zero penalties in the second half), having a half derailed like that will come back to bite them against better teams.

What Concerns Me Moving Forward

While the final score was a blowout, there are still some pressing things that need to be addressed aside from the penalties. The secondary, already razor thin in depth, lost Bill Bentley with an apparent knee injury in the first half. More than likely, the Lions will look to sign a corner in the coming week. My bet is that they sign Champ Bailey or Chris Greenwood from Minnesota’s practice squad.

Also, the Lions offensive line struggled against a good but not great Giants defensive line. Stafford consistently had to move around in the pocket or outside the pocket to get a pass off and the run game was non-existent in the first half. This is somewhat surprising considering the Lions offensive line played very well last year.

Finally, Nate Freese missed a 43 yard field goal in the first half. This continues a troubling preseason in which Freese missed several kicks from beyond 30 yards.

What Encourages Me Moving Forward

I was very impressed with Matthew Stafford in this game. Not only was Stafford secure with the football against pressure, he also made plays with his feet. For the game, Stafford had a quarterback rating of 125.3 and a QBR of 97.5. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes and was 8 of 13 on third downs. His footwork, which has been sloppy in recent years, looked great and his decision making impressed as well. This is a trend Lions fans would love to see continue.

Another positive from this game is that the Lions had zero drops in the game. Last season, the Lions led the league in drops. Golden Tate showed off his impressive hands with six catches for 93 yards on six targets.

Deandre Levy had another great game and is showing that he is one of the best linebackers in the NFC North. Levy led the Lions with ten tackles and also had an interception.

Next Game

Detroit goes out to Carolina to play the Panthers on Sunday.