Lions Look: One Step Forward
It was a long wait for one victory.
After a tumultuous week, where starting safety Quandre Diggs was traded to the Seattle Seahawks out of thin air, making many outside the Detroit Lions organization wonder aloud if they were pulling the plug on the 2019 season and upsetting Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to the point where his future in the Motor City is now being questioned, and saw running back Kerryon Johnson placed on injured reserve for the second time in as many years, which forced a lot of shuffling of the offensive backfield. Yet, with such the upheaval, the Lions defeated the visiting New York Giants 31-26 to snap a three game losing streak.
The Giants remained competitive throughout the game. Part of that was the Lions inability to close out their opponents, but rookie QB Daniel Jones had a very effective day passing the ball (28 of 41 for 322 yards & 4 TD's for a 124.2 passer rating). While game breaking RB Saquon Barkley did catch 8 balls for 79 yards and a touchdown, he wasn't the backbreaker of Detroit's defense. They won the turnover battle (2 takeaways versus 1 lost fumble) and did hold time of possession by a sliver, so the G-Men played a far cleaner game than they have in the past few weeks. However, with a defense that ranks amongst the worst in the league and an offense suffering through growing pains, it takes more effort to win games, regrettably. Hopefully, Giant fans can be optimistic about the future than to dwell on the dreary present.
The Lions, meanwhile, responded to the adversity foist upon them since being hammered by the Minnesota Vikings one week ago. While Slay was inactive due to a hamstring injury, the defense got back defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand for the first time this year, returning from an elbow injury incurred at training camp. It's hard not to conclude that Hand's presence made a difference, as the Lions held the Giants to 80 total rushing yards, the first time this season Detroit held their opposition to under 100 yards rushing as a team. Meanwhile, on the offense, quarterback Matt Stafford outdueled his young competitor (25 of 32 for 342 yards, 3 TD's & INT for a 129.4 passer rating), continuing on what could be a career year. Stafford has his fair share of critics, as does any face of an NFL franchise drafted #1 overall and long tenured with his original team. But he has put together many parts of the game into one dynamic package in 2019. But if the Lions wish to get back into the NFC North dogfight, they need their running game to be more than token presence. A deadline trade for a primary ball carrier (without giving away the store) could be a game changer in that immensely competitive division. We'll find out by Tuesday if general manager Bob Quinn can locate such a talent, and at the right price.
The win puts the Lions to 3-3-1, a distance behind division leading Green Bay (7-1) and Minnesota (6-2). But the Packers and Vikings have yet to go into their bye weeks, so there is some wiggle room, but not much. Up next for the Honolulu Blue & Silver is a road trip to California, as they will face the Raiders for the last time in Oakland. The Raiders have been a mild surprise in opening the year 3-4, and should not be taken lightly at any cost. If the Lions wish to stay in the divisional conversation, they need to get the win here.