After defeating the Cleveland Browns in a close game last week, the Detroit Lions couldn’t hang on to win another close one against the Oakland Raiders, as the Lions lost to Raiders with a final score of 27-26 in Oakland, California.
If you ask me, this loss comes down to the Lions not doing the little things well and allowing little things to turn into big mistakes. After that I have to put a lot of blame on the Lions defense. However, let’s start with the little things that the Lions didn’t do well.
The Little Things Continue to be a Problem for the Lions
Although it’s preseason and mistakes are expected, Lions continue to hurt themselves with penalties, poor tackling and mis-communication. To be honest, I felt the penalties, poor tackling and mis-communication were the main reason that the Raiders won this game. If you go back to the beginning of the game, you will see the Raiders first touchdown of the game, was led by penalties on the Lions defense. Think about it, the Lions defense did a good job of stopping the Raiders offense, forcing them to settle for 50 yard field goal. However, after an off-side penalty was called on the Lions, the Raiders were allowed a new set of downs, which led to the Raiders scoring a touchdown. Unfortunately that trend wouldn’t stop there. Throughout the game, we saw plenty of unnecessary penalties especially on defense, which allowed the Raiders to continue down the field and score. Penalties also hurt the Lions offense, it may have gone unnoticed by some but there were few times when quarterback Dave Orlovsky was in the game, working to lead his team down the field but false start penalties and holding penalties continued to push the Lions back, forcing them to have to convert on longer drives.
After the penalties, it was all about mis-communication and poor tackling. When it comes to the mis-communication, that’s to be expected because they are still learning a new system and playing with new players. However, mis-communication, has nothing to do with defensive awareness. To many times in this game, it seemed like players, particularity in the secondary weren’t aware of where their man was and at times I questioned if they knew where their first down marker was let alone the end-zone. If that’s not enough to convince you, keep in mind that the mis-communication and not being defensively aware to led the Raiders victory, let’s not forget that the Raiders game winning touchdown, came when quarterback Matt McGloin found wide open receiver Brice Butler in the end-zone.
Even more disappointing was the fact that the Lions continue to have problems with tackling their opponent. Considering that tackling or a lack of tacking has been a problem for the Lions for sometime now, I don’t feel like dealing with that again this season. Raiders special teams didn’t score any touchdowns in this game but they were able to get down the field and a lot of times, it was because the Lions were not defensively aware and kept missing tackles in the open field. The Lions also kept missing tackles in the open field when the Raiders offense was on the field, which was once again a key in the Raiders ability to get down the field and score.
Again, I understand that it is pre-season but if the Lions don’t clean up those things that I mentioned above, it’s going to be another long season for the Lions. I know every Lion fan has their opinion on the Lions and why they failed last season but one thing every Lion fan can agree on is the fact that the Lions put themselves in positions where they had to be in close games because they didn’t do the little things well. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to deal with that again this season.
After defeating the Browns last week, I said the Lions did a good job of bending but not breaking, meaning they allowed their little mistakes to help the Browns get down the field but were able to step up once they got close to red-zone and limit them to a field goal. While it is nice to see them Lions defense step up and limit the Browns to field goals, I said to keep in mind that every team won’t be like the Browns, certain teams will be able to score, if the Lions allow them to get in red-zone territory.
My point was proven in this game against the Raiders. As I mentioned earlier, the little things continue to hurt the Lions. The Raiders may not have a great offense, but they have capable play-makers and the Lions learned very quickly that if you allow teams to get down the field, they can hurt you. Again, most of the Raiders scores came after unnecessary penalties, miss tackles and mis-communication or bad defensive awareness.
Defense shows some bright spots but there is plenty of work to be done
When it comes to the Lions defense, many have been worried about the secondary and although we only saw the first string defense for a couple of series, I thought the Lions starting secondary looked solid. There were a couple nice plays, specifically by corner-back Rashean Mathis who deflected a few passes and safety James Ihedigbo who intercepted quarterback Matt Schaub. However, after that, it continues to be the same problems with the secondary and the main problem is the Lions in-consistent depth in the secondary which leads to mis-communication, poor defensive awareness and poor tackling.
After that, I have to once again bring up the fact that the Lions defensive line didn’t get much pressure on the quarterback. Again, it’s preseason, so the heart of the Lions defensive line was not in the game but it would have been nice to see them initiate more consistent pressure but unfortunately they didn’t. I’m not saying the Lions won’t be able to create pressure once the season gets going but it would still be nice to see them initiate some consistent pressure now during preseason. If that’s not enough, the defensive line also allowed themselves to be dominated at time, which open up holes for the Raiders running backs. Again, I know it’s preseason, so the heart of the Lions defensive line was not in the game but it doesn’t change the fact that the Lions defensive line continues to be inconsistent, when it comes to creating pressure and closing up holes by the offensive line.
Nevertheless, there are some bright spots for the defense, safety DeJohn Gomes had a nice big hit, which led to Raider tight end Scott Simpson fumbling the ball. After that I have to give credit to Detroit native and corner-back Chris Greenwood, who had a nice pass break-up in the end-zone against Raider wide receiver James Jones, which once again helped the Lions and stopped the Raiders from scoring.
I have to also give credit to the linebacker Stephen Tulloch who continues to be one of the more under the radar players for the Lions on defense, despite his great showing where he once again prove that he is tackling machine. The same goes for linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who showed that he can make plays in space. Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy also did a good job of consistently putting himself in a position to make plays and succeed.
Nonetheless, despite a few bright spots on the defense, I must say that the Lions defense was one of the main reasons that the Lions loss this game. Some of it goes back to the things I mentioned earlier like poor tackling, unnecessary penalties, poor defensive awareness and communication. However, if you ask me, the Lions defense also needs to do a better job of making their opponents one-dimensional. In this game against the Raiders, they allowed the Raiders to make plays both through the air and on the ground and that’s not something that can continue for the Lions defensively.
Matthew Stafford and the First String Offense Continue to Perform Well
Nevertheless, while there were some negative moments, there were also some positives moments. In this case, one of the main positives is the Lions first string offense.
I know it’s only the second preseason game and quarterback Mathew Stafford only played in three series against the Raiders, but I have to say I like I what I am seeing from Stafford so far in preseason. I said it last week and I will say it again, unlike in the past, Stafford looks like the game had slowed down for him, meaning that he doesn’t look rushed. While on the field, I felt he did a good job of making the right reads and going through right progressions. If that’s not enough, it was nice to see Stafford not panic when pressure came. When pressured, he did a good job of evading pressure but most importantly, he did a good job of looking down field and re-collecting himself which included him setting his feet and throwing an accurate pass, unlike in the past where he would rush, not set his feet and throw a side-arm pass.
I also like the fact that Stafford is making good use of his different weapons. As I mentioned earlier, Johnson did not play in this game. While I feel you can never truly judge the Lions offense when Johnson is off the field. I still think that it is important to know what the Lions offense can do without Johnson on the field because at the end of the day this is football and as much we want Johnson on the field, we need to know how to win without him if necessary.
Which leads me to my point that it was nice to see Stafford using his other weapons, whether it be wide receivers Golden Tate and Kris Durham or tight end Eric Ebron. Another plus, about Stafford’s preseason’s play along with preseason play of the first string offense, is the fact that they have been able to consistently get down the field and score. In the first preseason game Stafford led his team down the field for a field goal. In the Lions second preseason game against the Raiders, Stafford led his team down the field twice, which led to two touchdowns. Again I know its only pre-season but it doesn’t change the fact that I like what I am seeing from Stafford, who finished the game two touchdowns and 88 passing yards after completing nine of his ten passes.
Besides Stafford, I also like what I am seeing from the rest of the Lions first string offense. Running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush continue to be a dynamic duo in the backfield, which allows the Lions offense to be balance. Although, Tate was only on the field for a short time, he continues to do a good job in the slot and show great hands and the ability to make something happen after the catch.
Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross and George Winn continue to Make Names for Themselves
Last week, wide receiver Ryan Broyles put on a good performance, and he followed that up with another good performance against the Raiders. If you at his stats, you may not be impressed but there is no doubt that Broyles continues to make an impact. While on the field, Broyles did a great job of catching the ball and creating yards after the catch, which once again helped the Lions gain a few first downs. Wide receiver Jeremy Ross, who is known as special teams specialist also continues to step up and make a name for himself at wide receiver. Just like last week, he continues to show that he can gain separation and make things happen after the catch. Again, I know your probably looking at their stats and saying they weren’t that impressive, but keep in mind that both of these gentlemen continue to do great job of creating yards after the catch, which was huge and will continue to be huge for the Lions’ offense this season.
The same goes for Detroit native and Lions running back George Winn, who continues to be an upcoming play-maker for the Lions. In fact, to start off the game, Winn showed his great versatility by joining first string special teams, where he made two key tackles during the Raiders kick return. Once he got on the offensive side of the ball, he was just as impressive, once again showing his good burst off the line along with his ability break tackles and gain the tough yardage. He even scored a touchdown which is why at this point, it’s safe to say that Winn is just pure play-maker. If you put him in the back-field at running back, we know he has the power, vision and burst to make plays but we also know that if you put him on special teams, he has that same great ability to make plays and be an accurate tackler. Like I said, he is a play-maker, but then again what do you expect from a former University of Detroit-Jesuit High School product.
Keep in mind that the positives don’t stop there for the Lions offense. Running back Theo Riddick also continues to show good and productive moments, showing that he has the speed, agility and vision to make plays for the Lions if given the opportunity. If that’s not enough quarterback Dan Orlovsky had a good game, finishing with 153 passing yards after completing eight of his 12 passes.
Overall, I believe preseason is the time teams take to learn and I think that is what the Lions are doing right now. At the end of the day, I would call this a disappointing performance for the Lions, mainly because of the thing I mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, while they did show plenty of negatives, they also showed some nice positive moments and bright spots.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
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