After one of the worst single game performance in recent memory, the Detroit Lions thank the football gods for their earlier than normal bye week.
Rather than the bye week falling around week 10, many were, initially, surprised when it was announced that the Detroit Lions break would fall on week six. “Lions slappy’s” were disgruntled that their HBO Hard Knocks team, was getting a break too early. The “same old Lions” fans did not care either way. Detroit Lions fans, of all outlooks, are now relieved that the bye week landed where it did.
Week five saw the Lions take on the New England Patriots. But not a Mac Jones led Patriots, not a Brian Hoyer led Patriots but, a Bailey Zappe led Patriots. Zappe, the rookie out of Western Kentucky, got his first NFL start in week five. He played well and was able to lead his team to 29 points.
Having a fourth-round rookie quarterback start his first game, win and make very few mistakes is an anomaly in the NFL. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is no stranger to developing under-the-radar quarterback talent, but of course it came at the expense of Detroit. The moral of the Lions players and coaches were obvious on the sidelines. Jared Goff fumbled off a sack in the second quarter. A touchdown resulted from that fumble. The game was far from over but, they were mentally defeated.
When players are not mentally prepared or mentally unable to compete, there’s no chance to win.
Detroit play-calling decided that they needed to go for it on fourth down six times, against New England. Despite their inability to score, they made it worse by converting zero of those attempts. Those turnover on downs’ typically put the Patriots in good field position, too.
While the mental side of football can determine a game, the physical side determines whether someone can play the game. This is what really hurts the Lions.
Injuries play a factor, but…
Injuries have plagued the Lions roster all season, but this game was a kick to the mouth. Detroit’s secondary was already suffering the loss of Tracy Walker III for the season. Ruled out before the game were both Juju Hughes (safety) and Amani Oruwariye (cornerback). If that wasn’t enough, five more defensive backs went down against New England.
Rushed off the field by an ambulance in the first quarter was cornerback, Saivion Smith. Injured during the game was, safety Will Harris, he did not return. Going too low on a tackle was, cornerback, Ifeatu Melifonwu, who did not return. Then safety DeShon Elliot and cornerback Jeff Okudah both went down, but returned later in the game.
Nearly every starter and second string player on the Lions secondary was hurt. It’s hard to compete like that. But injuries do not excuse Detroit’s offense.
According to Dan Campbell, in the press conference following the loss, he said they could never get Goff into a flow.
The Patriots defense played stellar in containing Detroit’s offensive attacks. To put it simply, it didn’t seem like the Lions play-calling adjusted or wavered despite their poor performance. New England’s staff seemed to know exactly what Detroit wanted to do, and they stopped it immediately.
Overall, the bye week will give the Lions plenty of time to rethink how they’re executing in-game. The break will also allow the time needed to bring back key players on offense including; D’Andre Swift, DJ Chark and possibly (but, not likely) rookie Jameson Williams. It will also allow time for nearly half of the defense to recover from injuries sustained this season, listed or not.
There’s been a lot of talk on whether defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is on the “hot seat” and there’s always discussions about Dan Campbell and if he’s the “right man” for the job. It’s doubtful that ownership decides to fire any coaches at this time in the season. But with all the injuries on this roster, there should be a long-hard look at the health of the players and who’s responsible for preparing them.
Noah Wulbrecht – Woodward Sports Lions and NFL Writer
Photo credit: Bob Breidenbach – USA TODAY NETWORK