Ellen Park – The Detroit Lions (1-2) are back in the winning column after Sunday’s 26–23 win against the Arizona Cardinals. And just like that, they have the opportunity to climb back to .500 before bye, then face a much easier schedule to come out of the break.
Despite a win against New Orleans (1-2) on Sunday, and back-to-back losses to open the campaign, things could be interesting for this team in a hurry.
With that, let’s move on to some questions for this week’s mailbag. As always, I really appreciated everyone who participated. We will be back next Tuesday. Questions can be tweeted here Or emailed to [email protected]
questions: What can you say about the passing game in the second half? – @daldimovski
a: Darrell Bevell has had huge success in Detroit. He produced a vertical offense, sending Matthew Stafford to the top five of previous quarterback metrics, including efficiency and downfield passing, and the offense was the top five until Stafford was injured. But there is no doubt that games in Detroit have a tendency to grow more conservative in the second half, especially when leading.
Let’s take a look at Sunday’s game as an example. The Lions combined their first-down playcalls in the first half to pass seven times and run eight times. And they were highly productive. Stafford was passing 5 of 7 for 82 yards, which is 11.7 yards per game. Eight runs (all but one of which belonged to Adrian Peterson) gained 46 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
Overall, and Detroit gained 128 yards on 15 first-down plays in the first half. He is 8.5 yards per game. Hey, if you’re at 8.5 yards for the first time, you’re probably moving the ball very well, and that’s exactly what the Lions were doing with a 17-13 lead.
But in the second half, playcalling became more conservative. He ran the ball 10 times in 14 first-down plays, not including the Stafford-designed slide on the final play. Including four straight times to open the half. And as playcalling became more predictable, Detroit’s first-down success dried up. Stafford completed all three passes for 55 yards, but also took 10 yards of sack. 10 runs are produced at just 28 yards or 2.8 yards per carry.
All told, the Lions were only 5.2 yards on the first rung, compared to 8.5 yards in the first half.
Of course, you can also understand what the lions were trying to do. They were trying to keep Kylar Murray and that fast-paced ground off, which you might be late seeing in Detroit’s historical inability. And the strategy worked. Arizona came away with just 63 plays on Sunday, 10 fewer than any other game this season. And produced the fewest points (23), yards (377) and rising yards (109) for the Cardinals this season. And importantly, Arizona finished without a fourth-quarter point for the first time.
It is therefore difficult to say that more conservative playcalling did not work, even if it was less productive. Again, the Lions did not always win such games. In fact, the win broke an NFL-worst 11-game streak. He also led 10 in those games, and in the final four in double digits. No one has faced a worse situation than Detroit since Matt Patricia took over in 2018, and it is possible, perhaps, that more conservative playcalls have contributed to his downfall.
Since last season, the Lions have averaged 15.0 points in the first half. He is fifth in the league. But they are scoring just 9.6 points in the second half, which is 23rd.
Just to reiterate: Darrell Bevel has done a terrific job in Detroit, including Arizona. I especially loved how she included Jessie James, and when she did that. That third and short play, which went over the top, fooled everyone, then James caught a touchdown pass in the fourth and another could be added if Stafford did not overthrow him. I hate nightpacking playcalls, because it is so easy to do when handsite is 20/20, especially with a playcolor that is so good otherwise very good. But there is no doubt that Detroit’s playcalling becomes more conservative in the second half, especially when it holds the lead. And that more conservative playcalls have often been less successful.
Walking continuously to do what you do well and doing what you want to do to close a win is just such a fine line. Every playwright has to thread that needle, and it can be difficult. This is especially true for a team made like the Lions, whose strength is passing and especially downfield. So sometimes trying to do things that can set off a win, like running the clock out on the ground, bending over weakness while running away from strength.
questions: Why did he struggle to score TDS on Sunday? – @TripleOGMixx
a: It was not for lack of opportunities. The Lions made five trips to the red zone, but cashed in for only two touchdowns. Two of those drives were halted due to sacks, one of which was allowed by Halapulavati Vaitai and the other by TJ Hokenson. He got another red-zone opportunity due to a Jeff Okudah pick, but Matthew Stafford left Jesse James behind the final zone. Those last 20 yards are negative plays and overthrow back-breakers.
Detroit is scoring touchdowns on 46.2% of its red-zone opportunities this season, ranking 27th in the league. The only teams that are worse, by the way, are the Bengals, Broncos, Panthers, Giants and Jets. Those guys are a combined 1-13-1. It is almost the same as if a touchdown is an important part of winning the game in a league where margins are razor-thin. Perhaps the Lions should consider doing it a little more.
questions: Chance Marvin Jones is traded this year? The contract is after the season. Like deep in position. Sounds like a tate situation a few years ago – @ Detroit OLMoney
a: I don’t think the Lions can be a seller by the deadline this year. No when ownership says they expect to see a playoff push, and then Detroit opened with back-to-back losses against division rivals, who are now a combined 6–0. It’s quite an early season, and Matt Patricia needs to win a few games to save the jobs.
Having said this, I look forward to seeing what happens to Kenny Golade. Again, I do not think the Lions can be mandated by ownership to vendors. Then again, this league is on the short list of true WR1s. He is also just 26 years old, on a cheap contract, and in a contract year. So Lions can get some calls about him. And if the Lions were to lose to New Orleans, Jacksonville and Atlanta, leaving them in the trade deadline on November 1-5. 3, they may have to listen, especially if they think they will be unable to sign again. Golladay.
questions: Are we going to see more pressure and zones like last week or was it just a game plan discrepancy? (I know they wouldn’t be a bang team by any means, but maybe like an extra doubles game?) – @natesymonds
a: Do not know. He certainly mixed up his coverage last week, moving into a zone for about half the time. This is a huge departure for the Lions, who have bowed to man coverage more often than every other team in the league since Matt Patricia took over in 2018. They were in Green Bay with 81.8% of the time last week in man coverage, which led to the league. And he actually played even more man against Chicago last week (82.1%).
Nothing Matt loves more than Patricia Mann coverage. Well, maybe “Star Wars”. The man really, really loves “Star Wars”. (Thanks again for recommending “Mandalion, Coach”. Really fun stuff.)
So moving to a nearly 50-50 split between man and field concepts was very unexpected. Just ask Kylar Murray, who was dropped by Duron Harmon, then Jamie Collins, then Jeff Okudah. That’s why there are three different players at three different positions who all caught Murray passes, then Harmon almost added one more. Detroit really entangled the youth corner with all the various forms and muddy alleys.
But can those diversified sticks be seen. Finally, league sources have confirmed to MLive that Matt Patricia still wakes up today as Matt Patricia. And there is no coach in the league who loves man coverage more than that man. It is printed on his DNA, and despite the success of Detroit in Arizona, it cannot change.
questions: Is the weather expected to change water now? Or ride the wave of excitement given that we should be 2-1? – @TeeBritz
a: As the eighth-year beat writer covering the Detroit Lions, it seems to me that I am in a distinctly authoritative position that will ask you to anger the hell out of the man of your expectations.
There was a lot of choice on all sides of the ball in Arizona. They came back to beat a good team on the road, while taking the ball completely out of the hands of the opposing player. This complementary football mat Patricia has been talking about since the day he began raiding close to Allen Park supplies for pencils. Again, the Lions defeated the New England Patriots in Week 3 in 2018 with a similar all-round beat. Last year, he bounced back after defeating the Eagles in Philadelphia in 3 weeks.
Their combined record is the rest of the way in those seasons: 5-21.
questions: Has the coaching staff made their argument to rotate the RB position during the Games? It does not feel that it is situational, but more than that it is someone who stands closest to the bevel at the start of the drive. – @ Samadhi
a: Adrian Peterson played just more snacks (40) than Kerrin Johnson and D’Andre Swift combined (26). He also had more carries (22) for more yards (75) than Johnson and Swift combined. Not really sure what you are doing. If anything, I question why they are getting so lean at the age of 35, when they spent two of their last three second rounds on guys who are just barely playing.
The whole Swift thing really confuses me. She was the 35th overall pick in the draft, and played just six offensive snacks without moving the ball. Not sure what is going on there, whether it is bang or not ready to play or the ball control approach is not a factor.
questions: What is the optimal starting lineup in OL? I am really confused on this point. – @bigscanner
a: Do not feel bad, because I am also confused. And I don’t feel bad, because even lions seem confused. Eventually, he just awarded Hallapulavati Vaitai a $ 45 million contract to play it right, as he turned to the right guard because they did not want to pay a premium for Graham Glasgow to play the role of the right guard. Vaitai then left and allowed two burrows and, on a 2-minute warning, proceeded to catch a 52-yard bomb in Marvin Hall.
questions: Is it weird that I am saying goodbye to this program. – @ thegibb2
a: Not at all. Jacksonville (1-2) is not very good. Atlanta (0-3) is the only team in the league to have an edge in the fourth quarter, like Detroit. Indianapolis (2-1) holds the winning record, but those wins have come against the Vikings and the Jets. Then Detroit gets the Winning Vikings, the one-win Washington football team, the one-win Panthers, and then the winless Texans on Thanksgiving.
There are certainly opportunities to make the next move, especially if the Lions can figure out how the .500 can go back into it with a win against New Orleans on Sunday.