The Lions barely escaped with a 27-23 win over St. Louis Sunday afternoon at Ford Field. “A win’s a win” most of you might say, but if we take a closer look, there are a few things, good and bad, that we can take away from the game.
Perhaps surprisingly, I found more positives to take away from this game than negatives. The most obvious and also most frustrating aspect of this game was Matthew Stafford’s three first-half interceptions. First-year Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher seemed to have the perfect game plan drawn up to defend the Lions’ potent passing attack.
Almost every time the Lions smelled the end zone, the Rams came up with a takeaway. On all three of Stafford’s interceptions, it seemed as if the Rams defense knew exactly where he was going with the ball. St. Louis disguised double coverages and had Stafford fooled, rattled and guessing for most of the game.
The NFC North and other foes should be thanking Fisher and the Rams defense for manufacturing a blueprint on how to foil the Lions passing game. There is no doubt that Lions’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have to make some adjustments, especially as they are heading into San Francisco next Sunday night.
Staying on the same side of the ball, I was extremely impressed with the Lions offensive line. The easiest way to tell if the O-line is on par is if you never hear the commentators say anything about them. That means they’re doing their jobs. Detroit is one of the only teams in the NFL returning all five starters in the offensive trenches, and their chemistry showed.
They only allowed one sack on Stafford (which was more or less a coverage sack) and they also had zero false starts and zero offensive holding penalties. Speaking of penalties, Detroit only had three all afternoon. This is all but miraculous after giving up almost eight per game last season.
The most impressive thing that I saw from Detroit on Sunday afternoon was holding running back Steven Jackson to just 53 rushing yards, his longest run being only nine yards. As a team, the Rams only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Stephen Tulloch was the anchor in the middle of this run defense and will be all season as long as he is on the field.
Detroit’s banged up secondary was not tested by Sam Bradford and company. Lions starting cornerback Bill Bentley left the game on Sunday with an injury as well. With the jury still out on his status for next week, the Lions were also missing starting cornerback Chris Houston and starting safety Louis Delmas due to injuries.
Three missing starters in a defensive backfield is never a delightful thought, unless your name is Alex Smith, Vernon Davis, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham or Michael Crabtree—all who could be looking forward to shred a second string secondary next week in San Fran.