Cleat Geeks

Lion of Scrimmage: Detroit Out Guns Colts in Exciting Shootout Win

What a way to kick off the 2016 season! There was no more exciting game in the opening weekend of the NFL than the Lions taking down the Colts, 39-35. It featured not one, not two, but three potential game winning drives with Matt Prater finally capping off the win with a go ahead field goal with just four seconds left. Lions fans, enjoy this win because it is both well earned and critical for the teams playoff hopes. However, there is almost as much bad to take away from this game as there is good. Here’s what I saw.

stafford

Lets starts with the good. The offense looked fantastic in every dimension. Matthew Stafford was as close to perfect as you’re going to see in this league. He completed 79% of his passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. And of course the game winning drive to help give his team the lead with just four seconds left in the game. This was Stafford’s 19th game winning drive since entering the league in 2011. Granted the Colts defense is both terrible and banged up, but taking advantage of bad defenses is what great QB’s do. It was also impressive in how he racked up those yards. In the first game of the post Megatron era, Stafford hooked up with eight different receivers, distributing touchdowns to three different guys. Stafford didn’t just bomb the ball to a great talent like he has in the past, but rather he picked the Colts apart. This seems to be what the Jim Bob Cooter offense is all about; utilizing all the weapons and attacking the opposing defense from every angle.

ameerabdullahSpeaking of weapons, the Detroit playmakers looked very good yesterday. The top three wide receivers, Tate, Jones and Boldin, combined for 14 catches and over 160 yards. Eric Ebron showed why the Lions drafted him as he was a mismatch for the Colts linebackers all game long. He finished the day with five catches for 46 yards and a TD. However, it was the running backs who stood out above the rest. Both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick burned the Colts all day long. They racked up five catches for 57 yards and a TD (Ameer) and five catches for 63 yards and a TD (Theo) respectively. The most encouraging part of their performance was with how these two ran the ball. Combined they rushed the ball 19 times for 108 yards and a touchdown by Riddick. That’s a 5.7 yard per carry average. That is extremely efficient, especially considering that the Lions were dead last in rushing last season.

Finally I want to take a moment to give props to the offensive line. Even against a weak Colts front seven it was an impressive showing up front. Matt Stafford was only sacked one time and was pressured just a handful of times over the course of the game. They were hit and miss in the running game, allowing the RB to be hit in the backfield on several occasions, but did manage to open up holes throughout the game. Rookie Taylor Decker did a nice job overall, but did have a few growing pains. He had a few penalties and was beat in pass protection a few times. Overall it was a good debut for his first NFL regular season game.

Now for the bad. Lets stars with the obvious failure of Sunday, the pass defense. Even though the Colts are built to throw the ball offensively, allowing 385 yards and four touchdowns through the air is completely unacceptable. The linebackers looked absolutely terrible in coverage, which is a big part of why three of the four passing touchdowns were to the tight ends. The secondary allowed big plays to each of the Colts top three WR’s with a long of 32 yards for both T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief and a 51 yard play to Phillip Dorsett. Andrew Luck took whatever he wanted for the last 32 minutes of the game, including a go ahead drive with under a minute left to play. There are no excuses and no doubts about it, the back seven was horrible.

kerryhyderPart of the back seven’s failure was a result of the poor play of the defensive line. Although the Lions had two sacks, Luck had plenty of time to sit back and throw the ball for most of the game. Ziggy Ansah, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, was a ghost most of the afternoon. Devin Taylor also failed to impress in his first game as the full time starter as the other defensive end. In fact outside of Kerry Hyder, the backup defensive tackle who had both sacks, no one on the line made many significant plays. This was one of my concerns going into the game and I don’t see it getting much better as the season goes on.

Overall, this was a game that the Lions should have won and did. The Colts aren’t a good team, particularly on defense, and Detroit was able to take care of business and edge them out. However, the red flags are more obvious than ever for this defense. These problems, linebackers that can’t cover and a lack of pass rush, aren’t going away. Hopefully the Lions stars on that side of the ball will bounce back and help make this unit semi respectable. Despite this, the Lions are 1-0 and off to the right start in a perspective playoff push. The Lions now prepare for their home opener next Sunday as they host the Tennessee Titans (0-1) in another game that looks to be pretty winnable. The bottom line, it wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win and that’s all that matters.

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