At 2-3-1, division and/or playoff hopes seem far-fetched. Not many teams, if any, come back from 2-5 (or 2-4-1) to play meaningful football in January. But, .500 teams after week eight still have a chance, and the Lions had a chance to get back into the race with that record.
They did just that. A five point (31-26) victory over a team that’s now 2-6 may still have skeptics critical of the team. But, in the NFL, the only thing that matters in the playoff race is winning, and that’s what Detroit did. That’s also all the Lions care about, in terms of media and media critics. This is what their next opponent has done, which will be explained in the “What’s Next?” section.
For now, here are the three things Lions fans should take away from Sunday.
1. Let Stafford Do His Thing
In past recaps, I’ve mentioned time and time again. Darrell Bevell saw the New York Giants’ defensive tape and decided to let Matthew Stafford air it out. He did just that, throwing for 342 yards and only turning the ball over once in the first quarter. He eclipsed the 40,000 yard passing mark last week and has no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Every time Stafford is faced with critics on his back, he delivers. He still may not have the playoff win and he still may not have a great record against winning teams on the road, but it’s not his fault. He puts the team on his back and rides. He isn’t the problem. Believe in him.
2. The Receiving Corps Did Their Job
Not that they haven’t, but this is the first time in a few weeks we saw good games from multiple receivers. Last week, we saw Marvin Jones have an amazing day. This week, we saw Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola break out. Golladay had 123 yards and two scores, and Amendola had 95 yards.
With Stafford under center, the wideouts had a chance at breaking out at any time. With help from the offensive line, we saw the breakout happen Sunday. If this continues, the Lions could do what the Cardinals wanted to do, use an “Air-Raid” offense to lift them to the playoffs. With Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, this is what the Lions will have to do.
3. The Bend but Don’t Break Defense Bent but Didn’t Break
Injuries to the secondary and trading Quandre Diggs to Seattle didn’t help this defense, but the trade improved cap space in future seasons. But, help in the future doesn’t help today in any way. Darius Slay, Damon Harrison, Tracy Walker, and others will have to step in and help the defense bend, but not break.
Sunday, they did just that. They did allow 322 yards passing to Daniel Jones. Saquon Barkley‘s fantasy and Draftkings owners were happy at the end of this game. But, so were the Lions. They didn’t allow a wide receiver to eclipse 100 yards and held Barkley under 100 yards on either side of the ball. Also, the turnover battle ended even. If you win the turnover battle, most times, you win the game. Not losing the battle means not losing the game.
The Lions have their secondary problems, as explained earlier. It’s not coaching, it’s injuries. But, the Lions defense did what it had to, and in the scheme of things, that’s what matters.
After two games at Ford Field (that I attended!), the Lions travel to Oakland for the final time… or so, we think.
The Raiders have had their struggles over the years. There was great hope when Antonio Brown was there. That hope faded once he began his shenanigans. But, lucky for the Raiders, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are on their side. They handled the AB situation the best they could. After releasing him, they’ve relied on Josh Jacobs, Tyrell Williams, and Darren Waller to help out Derek Carr. They’ve turned into a smashmouth offense rather than spread with AB. A 3-4 record is better than what a lot of people thought, and the Lions will be in for a test by the Bay next Sunday.
A special shoutout to some Lions Superfans (or Royalty?) that I got to meet at the game Sunday. Sweta (@sweta2311), Koula (@koulakarma), MittenMafia (@Lionsman81), and FG LG W 3C (@FGLGW3C) have all been positive influences on the Lions and the fanbase, and definitely great fans to look for the next time you visit Ford Field. Thanks for saying Hi to me, all of you!
Let’s go beat the Raiders next week!
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images