The Detroit Lions have extended their winning streak to five games and are winners in eight of nine. The most recent victory coming against the Chicago Bears by a score of 20 to 17.
Here are the instant takeaways from the game
· The Lions were down by four with just over seven minutes left in the game, nothing unusual for this team. Stafford took the ball and marched the Lions down the field on a seven-play, 76-yard drive to put up the winning points.
· Stafford capped the drive himself with seven-yard run. This was the eighth fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drive of the season for Stafford – which sets a new NFL record.
· The Lions needed the fourth-quarter comeback due to a Stafford interception that was returned for a touchdown. On the play, Stafford was targeting Anquan Boldin on an out-route with Ebron running a clearing route outside of him. The Lions scored a touchdown earlier on the same route combination and went back to the well once too often.
· Speaking of Boldin, he’s been a valuable add to the team. He doesn’t just offer a reliable presence on the field – he leads the team with eight touchdown grabs – he’s also a stabilizing force in the locker room.
· After the game, head coach Jim Caldwell referred to Boldin as a ‘matter of fact kind of guy’, citing the receiver’s lead-by-example style. The coaching staff has gone as far as to have Boldin speak to the team’s rookies to help them understand what it takes to achieve the sustained excellence he’s enjoyed during his career.
· The Lions defense sprung some leaks – especially in the running game – but once again did a fantastic job of limiting their opponent’s scoring.
· This game marked the seventh-consecutive contest where the Lions opposition scored 20 points or less. The last time the Lions accomplished this feat was in 1961.
· One of the keys to the vast improvements on defense is an adjustment on offense. The Lions entered the season wanting to run an up-tempo, no huddle offense. They made good on that plan for the season’s first quarter, going no huddle on 45% of their offensive plays. They were 1-3 for those four games and the defense was struggling.
· Over the last eight weeks, entering today’s contest against the Bears, the Lions ran no huddle less than five percent of the time and often soak up as much of the play clock as possible to limit the defense’s time on the field. The ball-control strategy has seen the Lions go 8-1.
· The Lions welcomed back DeAndre Levy and the linebacker finished a complete game for the first time since 2014.
· Levy didn’t play a heavy role but finished with four tackles. He wasn’t on the field for many of the team’s nickel packages – Tahir Whitehead and Josh Bynes mostly occupied those positions – but that’s to be expected. Caldwell admitted that the goal was to ease Levy back in and that appears to be what happened. Expect the linebacker’s role to expand with time if he can remain healthy.
· Ziggy Ansah left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury but gutted it out to return to the contest. He forced a critical holding call on the Bears’ last offensive drive – as they were attempting to tie the game or take the lead. That won’t show up on the stat sheet but it was a big play
· On offense the Lions continue to commit to the run game and it appears to be paying off. With rookie Graham Glasgow getting his first start a center in place of the injured Travis Swanson, the Lions managed a 4.9 yards-per-carry clip and ran the ball 28 times vs. 35 pass attempts.