By Michael Ferro
The Detroit Lions have proven they can put points on the board in many games… just not always right when they need them most—injuries have only made the matter worse. That being said, the Lions put on a moderately well-balanced offense and defense at times against the Los Angeles Rams. In the end, it was just enough to give the Lions an edge with a 31-28 victory over the Rams.
The Lions have proven that they can charge out of the gates at the start of most games and put up quick points on the board. Unfortunately, the Lions either fail to modify their game plan once a defense adjusts and shuts them down after the half, or the opponent charges out of the gates themselves and mimic the style to early success. For the Los Angeles Rams, when Matthew Stafford led the Lions down on the first drive for an impressive opening touchdown, the Rams did just the same and the two continued to do so back-and-forth for most of the game.
In the end, Detroit put in just a bit more on offense than Los Angeles and it made the difference.
As usual, Matthew Stafford and the offense hit the ground running with a well-put together opening drive and followed that up with an “okay” drive that still got the job done on fourth down with a lucky toss by Stafford. The Lions were 2-2 in fourth downs in the first half.
The offense broke their third quarter scoring drought for a big pass from Stafford to Golden Tate to set up a quick touchdown, but Stafford also made an error in judgment on the following drive when he opted for a tough throw on third down instead of running himself for a relatively easy first down. Again, Tate made a big play in the fourth quarter with a pass from Stafford to tie the game at 28 and proved that he could be the best offensive weapon the Lions have heading into the rest of the season (and totaling 151 yards and six receptions up to that point).
Stafford had another great game overall with 270 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The offense struggled with injuries, but did enough to stay ahead by the time the final whistle blew.
The Lions defense has struggled in the past few weeks due partly to numerous injuries, so some adjustment was expected, as evidenced in the Rams’ first two drives of the game when they walked through an anemic Lions secondary to score an easy 14 points. The worst redzone defense in the league, the Lions did have a big stop on fourth down and inches keeping the game tied right before the half.
Much of the same defense was on display in the second half of the game. There were more key misses on big plays that let the Rams continue to dominate on time-of-possession. The Rams also continued to charge down the field and nab an average of nearly eight yards per play. Two missed tackles allowed the Rams to walk into the end zone to start off the fourth quarter and take a 28-21 lead over the Lions.
The Lions defense did have a big third down stop with less than six minutes left in the game to give the Lions offense another shot to win the game with good field position and the game tied at 28. After Matt Prater’s field goal to give the Lions a three-point lead with less than two minutes left, Detroit’s defense nabbed another interception (this time by Rafael Bush) for the second week in a row to end the game.
Special Teams: A
The special teams squad for the Lions had little to do in Sunday’s match up, with both the Rams and Lions playing ping pong across the end zones and racking up touchdowns throughout the four quarters. With less than two minutes in the game, the Lions found themselves short of a first down in the red zone, so they sent out Matt Prater to kick an easy 34-yard field goal to put the Lions on top by 31-28.
The thing about Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell’s coaching seems to be its simplicity: when it works, it kind of works, and when it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work at all. What was nice to see in the first half was Caldwell being willing to roll the dice on the fourth and goal to let the Lions tie the game before halftime; the gamble worked and the defense followed suit, holding the Rams on a fourth and inches when the tables were turned.
Whatever Caldwell might have said during halftime could have worked for a short while as the Lions offense came out of the half motivated, putting up points in the third quarter for the first time in a long time. But most of that magic seems to have quickly worn off with the Lions looking confused once more. A few senseless penalties, including a delay of game, didn’t help the matter.
In the end, Caldwell and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter put together enough of a game plan that gave the Lions their second straight win with only seven penalties for 62 yards – can’t complain about that (compared to penalties earlier in the season).
Born and bred in Detroit, Michael A. Ferro was awarded the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award and received a degree in Creative Writing from Michigan State University. He now resides in rural Ann Arbor. Additional writing can be found at AXS.com and on twitter @MichaelFerro.