5 Biggest Takeaways from Detroit Lions' Week 1 Loss

Brandon Alisoglu@@BrandonAlisogluCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2015

5 Biggest Takeaways from Detroit Lions' Week 1 Loss

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    Don't worry.

    Soon, the Detroit Lions conversation will turn to the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the season, but we can't move on yet. There were too many important lessons to be learned from that rough road trip out west.

    It's also critical that you keep your rational mind open and don't dwell too deeply on the negatives. While there are quite a few questions that need to be answered about the Lions' 33-28 loss to the San Diego Chargers, we're only 6.25 percent through the season.

    So don't sound the alarms, although it may be smart to man the battle stations.

Cornelius Lucas and Laken Tomlinson Aren't Ready

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    The focus all offseason was on improving the offensive line. Detroit made a trade and invested a first-round draft pick in the O-line, but the injury gods didn't provide a look at the intended unit.

    Instead, the Lions had to run with Manny Ramirez and Cornelius Lucas at right guard and tackle, respectively. And while Laken Tomlinson was always the front-runner for the left guard job, the young guns didn't follow the veteran's lead on the field.

    Ramirez looked comfortable against his old familiar foe, opening interior holes and generally protecting Matt Stafford well. However, it should be noted he gave up as many quarterback pressures—two, per Pro Football Focus—as Tomlinson and Lucas did.

    But neither ever looked particularly comfortable. The bulk of Detroit's rushing yards came between center Travis Swanson and Ramirez, although the team only ran 47 plays total, according to PFF, so it's tough to determine run distribution with so few opportunities.

    To be fair, Lucas can't be measured against the normal starters since he isn't one, and Tomlinson just saw his first NFL action. It's not time to panic by any means, and improvement should come with experience. But the Lions need LaAdrian Waddle and Larry Warford healthy if they want to sustain clock-killing drives.

This Team Needs DeAndre Levy

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    Every team is going to deal with injuries. The Dallas Cowboys are about to find out what life is like without Dez Bryant. The Baltimore Ravens will have to cobble together a replacement for Terrell Suggs.

    Both of those teams occupy the tier of teams Detroit is trying to join. The Lions won't be able to do it without their Pro Bowl linebacker, though.

    Detroit was able to skirt through the first half without San Diego poking its finger in the wound. However, some heady intern must have slipped head coach Mike McCoy a note at halftime because the script flipped in the second half.

    Philip Rivers picked apart the Lions defense with slants, crosses and flares, racking up 404 yards and moving the chains with impunity. DeAndre Levy is Detroit's designated screen-buster and best tackler in space, but he was inactive in Week 1.

    Travis Lewis and Josh Bynes will never be able to fill that role, and Stephen Tulloch looked quite a bit older this week than the last time we saw him. The recipe for breaking down Detroit's defense is obvious if Levy isn't out there, although it's unknown if he'll be able to fix all of the problems himself.

Calvin Johnson Isn't Worth His Contract

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    Calm down...again. This isn't an indictment of the most physically imposing wide receiver in the history of the game.

    It's a takedown of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

    We've belabored this point for a year now. Detroit arguably has the best receiving duo in the league, and Calvin Johnson is healthy.

    So why did he only see five targets?

    As we've discussed, the offensive line wasn't giving Matthew Stafford much comfort, but Lombardi refused to attack downfield. Case in point, Stafford threw just two passes that traveled more than 20 yards.

    The Chargers boast a worthy secondary that may have factored into the game plan. Yet it makes zero sense to sit one of the league's best players on the sideline, regardless of the defense.

Ameer Abdullah Is the Truth

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    The negatives are easy to find, but there were a few bright spots. And none of them shined as proudly as Ameer Abdullah.

    The rookie running back was everything the Lions wanted in their second-rounder. He displayed quick cuts and sure hands, contributing a touchdown and a 7.1-yard average.

    Unfortunately, he found himself in the same boat as Calvin Johnson. Joe Lombardi stuck to his plan of getting multiple guys involved, which resulted in just seven carries for Abdullah.

    But this isn't about the drawbacks. Detroit has a bona fide stud in the backfield, which makes fantasy owners and Lions fans everywhere smile. So long as Lombardi gets him the rock, Detroit could wind up with the biggest steal of the draft.

It Had That Same Old Feeling

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    There was a running theme (no pun intended) to this loss that felt familiar.

    The "same old Lions" isn't applicable because those stains belong to a club that went 0-16. This roster isn't capable of such treachery and only lost by five to a team with legitimate division-title aspirations.

    But it did have all the same markings of last year's losses.

    First, there was the hot start, with the offense and defense chipping in for a 21-3 lead. Then the meltdown ensued—physically and mentally—as the opponent steadily marched to 30 points and victory. It's the exact same script that played out in Dallas last January.

    Granted, the heat probably played a crucial role, considering the Chargers were standing on the sideline and Detroit's players were all sitting on the bench by the third quarter. But these are professionals. Those excuses don't fly here.

    It's important, however, to remember that this was just one game. These things happen, even to the best of teams. Yet these lingering issues are concerning, especially when you look ahead to a tough schedule.


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