Lions vs Broncos: 6 Things We Learned About Detroit in 45-10 Win
Well, it wasn't immediate, but the Detroit Lions got back to their winning ways and snapped a brief losing streak to go into the bye at 6-2.
Yes, 6-2. The same dreaded 6-2 that marked their record in 2007, when the Lions obliterated the Denver Broncos 44-7 on the eighth game of the season, at what was likely the highest point for the Lions franchise until right about now.
But as eerie as it is, the Lions are still flying high after eight games, and if nothing else, are guaranteed not to take a step back from last season.
You have to figure the Lions are okay with matching last year's win total in half the amount of games. The last half of the schedule is murderous compared to the first, but they have at least put themselves in a position to succeed and be relevant in December for the first time in a very long time.
But enough 2007 comparisons, and enough looking forward. What have we learned from this particular beatdown?
Tim Tebow Is Predictably Awful
Man, I wish I would have recorded that. That was some of the funniest football I've ever seen. You guys all thought I was just making fun when I called this game the Tim Tebow Comedy Hour.
But try telling me there weren't some laugh-out-loud moments watching Tebow running around in his Halloween costume as an NFL quarterback.
Two turnovers returned for touchdowns, seven sacks, a completion percentage parked around 33 for most of the day, and some of the worst pocket footwork and awareness ever seen. These were the highlights of Tebow's day.
As he has a penchant for doing, Tebow played much better in the fourth quarter than he did earlier in the game. But he had 15 points to make up against the Dolphins, and 42 to make up against the Lions. It wasn't to be today.
Besides, the fourth quarter was effectively a glorified preseason game, with the Lions' reserves playing just about all of the final 15 minutes.
On a side note, Tebow owes Eric Decker some kind of gift for breaking about four tackles on what should have been a harmless bubble screen to make his day look slightly less disastrous than it was.
The Running Game Might Be Better Without Jahvid Best
It's still not all the way there, but there was a much, much better sense of balance from the Lions this week than in any other game they've played this year.
Last week the running game was fairly consistent, as well. In other words, the game without Jahvid Best.
Now, I'm not blaming Best for the Lions' running woes, but the playcalling without him in there has been more focused on grinding, between-the-tackles running with Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams.
Williams had an up-and-down day, but Morris was consistent, averaging over four yards per carry without a breakout run. It wasn't great or flashy, but it was consistent, and Morris was enough of a presence for the Lions to get the play-action game going and keep the Broncos from keying on the pass.
Jahvid Best figures to be healthy after the bye, but I hope the Lions realize that this approach to the run game has worked relatively well, and use Best to complement it, not alter it.
Road Woes Are a Thing of the Past
Yes, the Lions came off a two-game winning streak to pick on a 2-6 team starting an H-back under center.
But let's focus on the where, and not the who. The Lions of 2010 broke their own NFL record by losing 26 straight games on the road (dating back to 2007).
The Lions of 2011 are on a six-game road winning streak. At the midway point of the season, they are .500 at home and undefeated on the road.
I think it's safe to say the automatic road loss is another closed chapter in Lions history.
Eric Wright Is the Free Agent of the First Half
With Nnamdi Asomugha floating around on the market, a lot of people looked at the Lions' signing of Eric Wright and turned up their noses.
Surely this wasn't the move intended to fix the Lions' woeful secondary?
Well, it was—and it has. Chris Houston and Eric Wright have quietly been two of the more consistent cornerbacks in the NFL all year.
The Lions have only allowed one 300-yard passer all season, and it was Tony Romo, who had almost as many yards go against him in interception returns.
Wright in this game seemed to make play after play after pass deflection after open-field tackle short of the first down. He dropped a couple of interceptions, too, but it didn't hurt his day overall, as he did more than his share to hold Tim Tebow to under 50 percent passing.
The Lions Can Put Together a Complete Game
Consistent run game, check.
Explosive passing game, check.
Run defense, check.
Pass defense, check.
Turnover battle, check.
Special teams coverage, check.
Clean, penalty-free, mistake-free football, check.
Though the margin isn't as great, I think this is an even more impressive win than the Lions' 48-3 beatdown of Kansas City.
The run game was stronger, the defense put up a more complete effort, and the Lions didn't take even a single penalty until the fourth quarter.
Hard to argue with a performance like that on the road going into the bye week.
Matthew Stafford's Ankle Is Just Fine
Matthew Stafford, hobbled with an ankle injury that made his appearance in this game questionable, is under pressure in the pocket, steps up, looks, and... runs for 21 yards?
Did that make anyone else think Stafford's injury was a little bit overplayed this week, given the performance he put on in Denver?
And it wasn't for a lack of pressure. The Broncos brought a powerful pass rush, and Stafford took some shots. But he was sacked all of twice and was pretty much on his game all day. He was much closer to the Matthew Stafford we saw over the first five weeks.
At one point he winged in a touchdown past Champ Bailey 30 yards down the field off his back foot, like he was just playing some pitch and catch on the playground.
Stafford is just fine, and whatever lingering pain he might be feeling will have an extra week to heal up before he visits the place that has been a deathtrap for him for his entire career: Soldier Field.