Vikings vs Lions: Detroit's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 4
Regardless of how high or low expectations were for the Lions this year, I don't believe anyone saw things turning out quite like this.
The Lions are going to take a three-game losing streak and a 1-3 record into their bye week, and there are questions in all three phases of the game.
We'll deal with the bigger questions throughout the week. For now, let's just take a collective deep breath and try to make sense of what just happened at Ford Field.
That's what the Lions are going to be doing for the next 14 days anyway.
Surprisingly, though, this wasn't a poorly-played game by the Lions in all respects. I'll start with the most surprising positive of the day.
Winner: Lions Defense
After a series of games in which the Lions gave up yards and points in bunches, the Lions gave up six points to the Viking offense.
Yes, the Lions lost, and yes, there were some lapses, and yes, Adrian Peterson went over 100 yards on the day.
But the Vikings offense never found the end zone, never broke a big play, and when the Lions needed a clutch stop late, they got it.
This is not an elite defense, and it won't be with the personnel on it. But they're good enough to give the team a chance to win, and they showed it today.
The problem in this game was elsewhere...
Loser (of the 1st Quarter of the Season): Special Teams
It's too subtle to call the special teams unit a mess to this point in the season.
Special teams are, in no uncertain terms, responsible for the difference between the Lions at 1-3 and the Lions at 3-1.
We're not talking about the Lions letting opponents start with good field position. We're talking about 28 points in the last two games being directly attributed to special teams coverage.
Considering the Lions have lost their last two games by a combined 10 points, special teams giving up 14 points a game is a very, very big deal.
While this is only one of a number of problems the Lions need to address, it's unquestionably the biggest right now. This unit is historically bad.
In fact, to put that in perspective, here's ESPN's Kevin Seifert.
Winner: Joique Bell
Joique Bell was basically the most productive running back the Lions had in this game.
When they started feeding him the ball in the fourth quarter, he made things happen with it, and the Lions scored their only touchdown of the game on the drive in which he was most involved.
Of course, I say that despite the fact that bell actually only rushed for two yards in this game. But as a receiver out of the backfield, Bell caught six short passes that he turned into huge gains totaling 72 yards.
That's more than Leshoure had in this game on almost triple the touches in rushing and receiving combined. And Bell's basically all came on one drive.
Don't draw any final conclusions from this regarding the depth chart, but Bell definitely outplayed the rest of the field in this one.
On a side note, Kevin Smith garnered zero touches for the second consecutive week. Maybe his career isn't salvaged after all.
Loser: Bill Bentley
The stats will show that Bill Bentley had a decent day because he held Jerome Simpson to all of 50 yards receiving.
What they won't show is that most of those yards were in a clutch late-game situation when the Lions needed a stop to get the ball back. They got the stop eventually, but not before giving up the catch to Simpson to run another minute or so off the clock and give up an ultimately fatal amount of field position.
But more importantly, Bentley absolutely HAS to start looking for the ball on deep routes. He can run with anybody, but got flagged for 57 yards' worth of defensive pass inference because he didn't turn his head to play the ball.
Realistically, Bentley's hand fighting and overall work was decent on both of the plays he got flagged on. He even played good defense on the late completed pass (it was just a better catch by Simpson).
But when he keeps his eyes on the receiver instead of locating the ball, it makes it harder to knock that ball away and easier for the refs to flag pass interference.
On a side note, he also whiffed on this (pictured) tackle of Percy Harvin, which was a common theme in this game.
Winner: Kyle Vanden Bosch
Kyle Vanden Bosch arguably made two touchdown-saving tackles on the same drive when the Vikings got into the Lions' red zone.
One was a clean up of Bentley's aforementioned whiff in which his motor was on full display as he ran down and caught Percy Harvin short of the goal line.
A few plays later, Vanden Bosch came up with a clutch sack on third down. Seemingly, just as Christian Ponder had made up his mind to try to run the ball into the end zone, Vanden Bosch caught him around the knees to turn what could have been a touchdown run into a one-yard loss.
Though the Lions defensive line has been a considerable disappointment thus far this season, Vanden Bosch was at least able to show that his high motor is more than just an anecdote these days.
Loser: The Lions Offense for the First 45 Minutes of Every Game
Just because you can score a lot of points late in games doesn't mean you should wait until late in games to score any points.
The Lions' inability to score points before the fourth quarter has sunk them for the last three games. This is a team that is supposed to be mediocre on defense but near-unstoppable on offense.
In other words, the offense is supposed to cover for the team's shortcomings in other areas. That has not happened once yet this season.
If anything, the Lions offense is exposing the defense and special teams and challenging them to keep the margin manageable. Maybe the Lions had so much fun posting come-from-behind wins last year they wanted to make every game like that.
Maybe they should re-consider that now that they're 1-3 on the season.
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