With the win, the Lions remain locked atop the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers, both teams own a 4-2 record. Let’s highlight some key components of the game with this week’s Good, Bad and Ugly.
The Good – The Defense
With an inconsistent and underachieving offense as well as a kicking game that has been the most ineffective in the league, the Lions have relied heavily on the defensive side of the ball.
The Lions defense, which entered the week as the top ranked unit in the league, had another dominant performance this Sunday, holding the Vikings to a meager output of 212 yards and three points.
While the offense sputtered, the defense was able to thwart any thoughts of a comeback by the Vikings; registering eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits and a few dozen quarterback hurries.
All in all, the Lions top-ranked defense forced seven punts, three interceptions and six three-and-outs.
There are undeniable corrections that need to occur if the Lions want to seriously be considered contenders in the tough NFC – working in their favor is the fact that the defense continues to buy them time to bridge these gaps.
The Bad – The Offensive Line
The Lions offense has not lived up to the lofty preseason expectations that were attached to them once they invested heavily in the unit by bringing in weapons such as wide receiver Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron.
Although all the unit’s misfortunes cannot be pinned on one area, the biggest defect in Detroit’s offense appears to be the leaky pass blocking of the offensive line – a group that entered the year considered among the best in the league.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed only 19 of 33 attempts, leading the offense to a total yardage output of only 255 yards. Several of Stafford’s incompletions were a direct result of almost immediate pressure. The Vikings, who didn’t blitz often, finished the game with four sacks and seven quarterback hits.
The Lions offensive line continues to struggle with stunts and delayed rushers from the opposing defensive line. These are problems that won’t be easily overcame – even with a healthy Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. There will need to be offensive adjustments – either in the play calling or pass blocking scheme – if the Lions are to snap out of the offensive funk they’ve been stuck in. Even worse, there could be concern for the beating Stafford is taking every week.
The Ugly – The Kicking Game
Earlier in the week head coach Jim Caldwell announced the singing of kicker Matt Prater to the rest of the team – resulting in a round of applause.
The excitement and enthusiasm surrounding Prater’s signing have been extinguished after the veteran kicker missed two-of-three field goals – first one from 50 yards out and then a 44-yarder he drilled off the uprights.
The Lions have now missed a league-high 10 field goals this season – a combination of blunders that three kickers, now including Prater, have contributed to.
This week figures to be another one where the Lions kicking game is heavily scrutinized.
Of course, the Lions would be foolish to give up on Prater immediately. He’s only a year removed from a Pro Bowl nod, while only missing one kick all of last season. Still, at least for one week, there will be little solace for those who remain uneasy about the Lions field goal unit.