This past week has been filled with Detroit Lions Football, playing the Chicago Bears on Sunday and the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving just five days later. Both games are reminiscent of each other: the Lions have large point deficits to objectively worse teams. The only difference between their performance between the Bears and the Packers was the Lions’ ability to get their act together and prove victories with two touchdowns and a safety in the game’s last three minutes, eventually beating the Bears 31-26.
The infamous Thanksgiving game provided a much less satisfying ending, with the Lions losing by seven points to the third-place NFC North team. This game has provided a glimpse into a Lions team, which fans have yet to see much this year: one that needs to be more organized and lacking on both the offensive and defensive fronts. Here are four things that this Thanksgiving game has taught us to be victorious against the New Orleans Saints next Sunday.
What the Thanksgiving Game Taught Us About the Lions
1. There Is a Time and Place for Risky Plays
Dan Campbell is known for taking chances when deciding what play to use next. Just this season, the Lions have attempted 27 fourth-down conversions and of those, 13 have been proved successful. Campbell recognizes his risky nature may leave Lions fans squirming in their seats, praying they will emerge victorious. Campbell advises fans to “Just wear a diaper before some of these games”.
Yet, fans and players alike had just seen how far Campbell would go with these dangerous plays when Campbell called for a fake punt on the Lions’ 25-yard line toward the end of the third quarter. To the Lions’ dismay, this risky decision put on by the Lions’ coaching staff resulted in a touchdown two short minutes later by Christian Watson, making the score margin even wider: 29-14.
After the game on Thursday, Campbell owned up to his mistake, saying, “That’s a bad call. I shouldn’t have done it to those guys. That’s a bad call”. Before the call, the Lions were only a touchdown and field goal short of leading the game. Although the move by Campbell is only one of many reasons the Lions lost to the Packers, it was one of the leading reasons for the inevitable loss of the game.
2. The Lions Need to Work on Their Ability to Defend Mobile Quarterbacks
It was obvious throughout the game that our defense lineup, including the second overall pick in the 2022 draft, Aidan Hutchinson, was severely lacking. Jordan Love has averaged only 18.2 rushing yards per game, yet he surpassed this number on Thursday with three rushes for 39 total rushing yards. This unfortunate reality boils down to the fact that the Lions’ defense gave Love the space and time to run with the ball, contemplating what move to make next.
This lack of pressure served as a gift to the Packers, giving both Love and his offense time to think about their first move. This led to many monumental plays for the Packers, such as Love’s 53-yard pass to Watson at the very beginning of the first quarter. Not only did the Lions bring virtually zero pressure to Love but they totaled zero sacks. The Lions have totaled 23 sacks this season, proving that they simply did not bring their A-game on Thursday.
3. Jared Goff Needs More Coverage
Jared Goff is not a mobile quarterback, averaging 2.09 rushing yards per game. The Lions’ offensive line needs to recognize this in order to properly cover him from the opposing team’s defense. The Packers’ pressure on Goff led to 18 incomplete passes and three sacks. Coverage from the offensive line would not only prevent Goff from being sacked but also allow him time to throw accurate and effective passes, that would eventually lead to a win.
4. The Lions Need to Get Their Old Attitude Back
In the past, the Lions had to fight to earn respect within the sports world. For years, they had to endure constant ridicule from TV show hosts and other players in the league, despite the fact that the franchise created greats, such as Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders.
That is why when Campbell entered the Lions coaching staff post-Matt Patricia, he was a breath of fresh air. For the first time in a long time, there was a coach who not only wanted the Lions to succeed but believed the Lions would succeed. After the Lions were featured in season one of “Hard Knocks”, the world fell in love with Campbell’s fiery and positive attitude. There he was giving motivational speeches and getting on the ground to do push-ups along with the players.
Campbell warned other teams of the new Lions that they would be facing, saying “when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off”. But as the Lions have risen to the top, it seems as though they have lost the fighting spirit that they once embodied. Walking onto the field this past Thursday, they believed undoubtedly they would leave the field 9-2, while the Packers walked onto the field knowing they would have to fight to win this game. The Packers putting their all on the field proved successful, leading their team to embarrass the Lions on their own field in front of their own fans.
If the Lions want to return to the team that defied all odds and beat the Super Bowl-winning team during the first game of the season, they need to return to their fiery, “knee-biting” attitude that they began with two seasons ago.
This past season has been a complete whirlwind for the Lions, gearing towards the winner of the NFC North, something that has never happened before. Before the nation’s eyes, this young, undeveloped team has flourished into one that is playoff-bound. And although the past few games have been frustrating to watch, they have served as reminders of what the Lions need to do in order to prove successful during the last six games of the season.
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