Lions Look: No Answer For Elliott

By Curtis Clayton
Sep. 30, 2018

Ezekiel Elliott had a day.

The All-Pro running back was a multidimensional weapon for the Dallas Cowboys in racking up 240 total scrimmage yards, including a 34 yard reception late in the fourth quarter to set up placekicker Brett Maher for a 36 yard game winning field goal as time expired to give the Cowboys a 26-24 victory over the Detroit Lions. The win improved Dallas to 2-2 on the year, while the Lions finish September with a mark of 1-3.

The biggest key for the Lions to win this game was to reasonably contain Elliott. His 152 rushing yards and 88 receiving yards were clear evidence of that stark inability. Despite the defensive struggles, the Lions were in this game. Their largest deficit was ten points, which was recovered after 2 forth quarter touchdowns. The offense was able to respond when it needed to and protected the ball with no turnovers and no fumbles, but between the defense and a significant difference in penalties (8 for 58 yards for Detroit versus 2 for 20 for Dallas), it was too many mistakes for the Honolulu Blue and Silver to overcome.

What looks to be a narrative for the Lions heading into October and beyond will be the state of the defense. Head coach Matt Patricia, a Bill Belichick mentored coach, is a disciple of the 3-4 base alignment, a system not run on a primary basis in Detroit in 25 years. The personnel is mismatched for the scheme Patricia wishes to run, and the evidence will be clear for 2018. If there is a silver lining, the secondary has spearheaded the league's best pass defense in average yardage surrendered (152/game entering Week 4). With Pro Bowl caliber players in cornerback Darius Slay and free safety Glover Quin, the Lions make it difficult for the opposition to comfortably throw the ball. How good? Despite Detroit's dearth of notable pass rushers, the Lions have posted 13 QB sacks as a team, which is better than average. A majority of those have been due to the coverage of that defensive backfield. If the Lions improve their win total over the season, rest assured their defense making strides in development will be a major factor in that.

Next up for the Lions is the first Green Bay Packers match-up in 2018, this one hosted at Ford Field. The Packers sit at 2-1-1 after shutting out the Buffalo Bills 22-0. The Lions swept the Pack last year for the first time since 1991, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out due to injury in both games. Despite playing with a lingering knee problem, his 85% is better than many others 110%. If the Lions still wish to play in January, this is a must win game because of its divisional implications.