Lions Look Week 2: West Coast Woes

By Curtis Clayton
Sep. 17, 2018

Well, that was better, but not by much.

The Detroit Lions came into Santa Clara to face a rebuilding team in the San Francisco 49ers. After the embarrassment of the previous Monday Night still fresh, this game would be a good metric into where the Lions are, both collectively as talent and mentally after a rough performance.

What would transpire would be continued struggles in the run game (though improved from six days prior), difficulty in generating a pass rush (six sacks of Niners QB Jimmy Garappolo often due to coverage notwithstanding), and continued breakdown on special teams (a long kickoff return for a touchdown was only undone by a receiving team penalty, but it still turned into points for San Fran).

If there to take away from this particular game, it would be the inescapable conclusion that the Lions are in a state of rebuilding, which seems absurd. Detroit has their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, locked into a multiyear contract. Money and draft picks have been spent this past offseason to address the run game, from acquiring LeGarrette Blount to drafting interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow and running back Kerryon Johnson. But where it is clear that changes are occurring is on the defensive side of the ball. Head coach Matt Patricia, a disciple of Bill Belichick, is a proponent of a 3-4 alignment, a basic scheme the Lions have not run in 25 years. Without the proper personnel, it leaves the defense ripe for easy pickings for decent offenses to exploit. Going forward, the Lions will need to be able to win shootouts to mask their defensive deficiencies. With Stafford as the triggerman, this offense can score very quickly, as evidenced by the furious rally the Lions put on to make it a 30-27 nail-biter with Detroit down as much as 17 in the second half. But that goes counter to the desire to achieve offensive balance to extend Stafford's career and ease the burden on his shoulders.

Next up, another nationally televised game, this time on NBC's Sunday Night Football with the New England Patriots coming to Detroit. The league's schedule makers decided to run with the Belichick-Patricia storyline for this primetime tilt. Seeing the fact that the Patriots make many teams look foolish, expecting just a competitive game may be enough expectation for a fan of the Honolulu Blue and Silver to have at this time. But stranger things have happened.