After losing their first road game of the season to Carolina Panthers in week two of the season, many fans questions whether the Detroit Lions could go into MetLife stadium and defeat the New York Jets. Although the start of the game wasn’t pretty, the Lions proved their doubters wrong once again, as they went on to defeat the Jets, 24-17 and elevate to a record of 3-1.
Unlike the first three weeks, where the Lions defense got most of the credit for the win, this game truly was a team win, as the Lions offense and defense both stepped up in this game, for the Lions to win.
Like him or loathe him, quarterback Matthew Stafford continued to show his growth in the Lions win against the Giants, as threw for 293 yards, two touchdowns, not to mention the rushing touchdown that he had in the second quarter.
One of the main things that stood out, is Stafford’s ability to play well despite being under heavy pressure all game. In the past, Stafford couldn’t handle that. However in this game, he showed poise and he made the necessary adjustment like getting the ball out quicker while still making accurate throws. Think about it, his 57-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jeremy Ross was a nearly perfect, as he threw the ball with good touch and plenty of air under the to let Ross simply run under it. Stafford’s touchdown pass to Ebron was also impressive, as he put plenty of velocity on the throw and placed the ball perfectly for Ebron to make the catch.
Beyond that, he did a good job of spreading the ball around and making the absence of Johnson, a non-factor. He once again showed off his ability to “scramble”, as he not only rushed for a key touchdown in the second quarter but as he also rushed for a key first down in the fourth quarter to seal the Lions victory.
Most importantly, I like the fact that Stafford had no turnovers in this game.
Now, does that mean Stafford played a perfect game or that he made no mistake in this game?
No it doesn’t mean that, However, it doesn’t change the fact that this was nice bounce-back game after a couple tough weeks, and it was really good to see him play this well against a good defense while on the road in a tough environment.
Considering the Lions only rushed for 88 yards in this game, you may look at that stat and say the Lions didn’t do a good job of producing on the run. While I admit that the run game wasn’t great stat wise, I do feel that their running game was productive, as they ran the ball well.
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. That’s what the Lions did in this game.
I was really impressed with running back Reggie Bush in this game. Despite the fact that the Lions finished the game without three running backs, after losing Joique Bell to a head injury and Montell Owens and Theo Riddick to hamstring injuries. Bush, who in the past was known as more of an east-west guy, proved once again that he has grown into a better all-around back, as he fought for tough yardage and the helped the Lions to run the ball and move the chains to close out the game with a win.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how badly Bell, Owens and Riddick are hurt. Hopefully it’s nothing serious but if it is, the Lions can feel good in knowing that they have running back George Winn patiently waiting on the practice squad.
Calvin Johnson may have started the game, despite an ankle injury. However, it’s safe to say that Johnson was extremely limited against the Jets as he was basically used as a decoy. Throughout the entire game, he was targeted just two times, and although he finished with two catches for 12 yards, it doesn’t change the fact that Johnson was basically a non-factor in this one for the Lions.
Nevertheless, while it was somewhat disappointing to see Johnson not used as much, it was great to see the other Lions receivers step, starting with Golden Tate. I know he didn’t have any touchdowns in this game but Golden provided the Lions with something much better, as he showed off his great hands and ability to convert on third down and gain mutiple first downs for the Lions. If you think I am exaggerating look back the film. Every time Tate caught the ball in this game, he was helping the Lions to move the chains and the more production he provided, the easier it became for everyone else to get involves.
That was the other great thing about the receivers today, everyone gotten involved. Wide receiver Jeremy Ross, scored a nice touchdown in the second quarter as he ran past Calvin Pryor and LeQuan Lewis for a 57-yard touchdown catch. Ryan Broyles who had been inactive the first three games of the season, played in this game. Although, he made just one catch in the game, the catch went for 21 yards on third down, as he helped the Lions to move the chains offensively.
Once gain proving my point that it was great to see this receiving core step up while Johnson was out but also making it clear point that this offense is evolving, even if that stats don’t always prove it.
Keep in mind that it’s wasn’t just the receivers who stepped up in this game without Johnson. The tight ends also stepped up without Johnson in this game, even though they were without tight Joseph Fauria, who injured his ankle at home this week.
In particular, it was rookie Eric Ebron who had a good game. Before halftime, he added to the lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Stafford with 22 seconds left, making that the first touchdown of the rookie’s career. Beyond that, he got more involved in the offense’s game plan this Sunday,which proved to be a good situation for the Lions, as he finished the game with three catches for 34 yards and the first touchdown.
I’ve said for weeks now that the offensive line misses the presence of LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle, despite the effort of veteran Garret Reynolds and rookie Cornelius Lucas. Although, it may have gone unnoticed because the Lions offense did have statistical success this Sunday but Stafford took heavy pressure in this game, including four sacks which now puts him at 11 sacks on the season. While that may not seem like a big deal, keep in mind that Stafford didn’t take his 11th sack last season until Week 11.
So while the offense may be improving as whole, the pass protection of Stafford has been bad since the Lions loss Waddle and Corey Hillard and they can’t continue to have these type of problems moving forward in the season.
The defensive line may have started the game on the bad note, as they allowed the Jets offensive line to control the line of scrimmage and running back Chris Ivory to gain 51 yards on nine carries. However, once in the red-zone they quickly woke up as defensive end Jason Jones exploded off the line and forced a bad throw by quarterback Geno Smith on third down, forcing the Jets settled for a field goal.
For the most part the Lions defensive line did a great job in this game. They pressured Smith constantly, making him uncomfortable all game long. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah exploded off the line of scrimmage at one point in the game and plowed into Smith, causing him to throw a bad pass which was picked off by Lions cornerback Darius Slay.
Although, Ivory and Johnson would have some productive moments in this one, the Lions defensive line did a good job of keeping the Jets running game at bay, as they held them to 132 rushing yards, which is 25 yards less than there average rushing yards per game.
After we learned that linebacker Stephen Tulloch would be out for the season with a torn ACL, some people had concerns about the linebacking core of the Lions. However, the Lions proved once again that they were step ahead, as Tahir Whitehead, who was moved to middle linebacker earlier this week proved to be a good a fit as he finished the game with a 12 total tackle performance.
DeAndre Levy was right there with him, as he racked up 11 tackles. Although Ashlee Palmer didn’t have any standout stats, he stilled did a good job of helping to defense the run and the pass. Thus proving the point that this linebacking core can survived and play well without Tulloch, even though are not a great unit without Tulloch.
Despite injuries and continues doubts, the Lions secondary continues to prove their doubters wrong as they once gain proved that they are forced to be reckoned with. Now obviously, some of the credit goes to the front seven, who did a great job of pressuring Smith and slowing down the run.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that the secondary, did a good job of making an impact in both the running and passing game. When it came to the running game, I thought the entire secondary did a good job of coming to help. After missing the first three games of the season with safety James Ihedigbo had a great debut, as he racked up five tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
Beyond that, the secondary did a great job of taking away Smith’s first option and making him settle for his second and third options. Slay picked off the first pass of his career, thanks to heavy pressure from Ansah. Safety Glover Quin and cornerback Rashean Mathis continue to shine under the radar, as they combined for a total of 12 tackles and played great defense in coverage.
While I still believe this was good defensive effort by the entire, I think still think the secondary’s ability to slow down this Jets offense in the passing game was nice to see as they held the Smith to a quarterback rating of 68.9.
Former Philadelphia Eagles kicker Alex Henery, who the Lions signed on Monday to replace rookie place kicker Nate Freese, certainly proved to be a good decision for the Lions. In the Lions opening drive of the game, Henery connected on 51-yard field goal, showing off his strong foot but more importantly he showed his experience and intelligence, as perfectly read the wind and kicked it right down the center. He did, however miss badly from 51 later in the game.
Punter Sam Martin was great as always, as he continuously put the football in the end-zone on every kickoff. Martin also did in good job in the punt game, as he made the Jets drive from deep in their own territory, making it easier for the Lions defense and harder for the Jets offense to get going.
When it comes to the coaching, I am always pretty happy wit head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff. Although the Lions offense got off to a slow start in this game, it was great to see Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, stick with their game plan, as they continuously ran the ball and passed the ball well, while still taking some risks offensively.
Defensively, I though defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, did a great job of making adjustments, as he once again made the right play calls, to initiate pressure on Smith, while also doing a good job of disguising the pass coverage with zone and man coverage throughout the game.
Most importantly, they did a good job of helping the Lions close out another tough win. Thus proving my point that this coaching staff is bringing a new identity to the Lions.
Overall, this was a good win by the Lions. However that doesn’t change the fact that this is a game that the Lions should win. Don’t get me wrong because I am not taking anything away from this win. I am simply saying that this Lions team should win games like this. As much of an improvement as I saw offensively and defensively, I still saw some areas that the Lions can improve on as well.
However, the most important thing that I took away is the fact that the Lions are learning and improving while still winning game, which something they didn’t do well in the past.
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.
Detroit Lions Defeat The New York Jets, 24-17 As They Elevate To 3-1 was originally published on wchbnewsdetroit.com