In watching the Detroit Lions defeat the New York Giants in commanding fashion, I wanted to highlight some of the key points from the game. There were some good and some bad points but overall the game was well played. The coaching changes made a very noticeable difference last night.
- George Johnson, who was originally expected to be a camp body and not likely to make the team, had a nice debut for the Lions. He finished the game with 1.5 sacks. Not bad for a player who recently admitted that this was his last chance at a NFL career.
- Matthew Stafford looked solid. He was mistake free, completed 68% of his passes, only took 1 sack and had three total touchdowns (2 passing one rushing). He emerged as the player this team needs him to be if they are to be successful.
- Calvin Johnson is still Calvin Johnson. He had 7 catches for 164 yards and 2 TDs. One of the two touchdowns he was wide open on, which will probably never happen again. It just shows what happens when defenses cannot triple team him and have to cover other players.
- Speaking of other players, Golden Tate showed why he was the Lions prized addition. He had 6 catches for 93 yards. He consistently kept drives alive and when he didn’t, he got them into field goal range. If he stays healthy all season, this offense should be great.
- Detroit Lions secondary, which came into this game as a weakness held the Giants in check all game. Their star receiver Victor Cruz had 2 catches for 24 yards. The top two Giants receivers were their running back and tight end, who each had about 50 yards receiving. Not bad for a team playing with a 3rd team safety as their starter and at one point had both third teamers in there while Quin was getting tended to.
- Detroit Lions defensive line played out of their mind. They had two sacks, stuffed the Giants on short yardage runs and had a 4th and one stop. There is also no doubt their pressure on Manning caused those two interceptions as he expected to have to make quick decisions all night. On a side note, they held the Giants to 53 yards rushing.
- The penalties need to stop. There were several bad penalties that hurt the Detroit Lions. They had a bad hands to the face penalty on Dominic Raiola (bad that he did it, good call). Slay had a bad pass interference penalty in the end zone on a play that he was in great position for. Bill Bentley got flagged for pass interference on the play that he messed up his knee. I’ll give him that one though as he likely would have given up a touchdown if not for that penalty. Jerome Couplin had a bad roughing the punter call. That extended a Giants drive where they ultimately scored. In all, Detroit committed 8 penalties for 85 yards. If they clean that up, they will be a tough team to beat.
- Eric Ebron needs to settle in. I am not shocked by his 0 catches. I am not shocked that he was only targeted twice. I am shocked though that he talked all week and all preseason about how he is already adjusted to the NFL, yet he clearly is not. He will be a good player. He is already doing what was expected in drawing coverages and creating mismatches. He just needs to settle in and play football.
- Nate Freese missed his first field goal. It did not hurt the team, but it did cause a bit of worry. He needs to do a better job of settling down and not rushing himself. Jason Hanson, for years, would do a hand motion that looked to settle him down before every kick. Freese looked rushed on his first kick. He needs to find something to slow him down so he can focus on kicking the ball.
Overall I saw a few things from this team that can only be attributed to the new coaching staff. Suh was not reckless. The penalties they got were not for unnecessary roughness which they have dealt with in the past. The only “roughing” penalty they had was a poor decision by a rookie trying to block the punt. That is the Jim Caldwell effect. The offense looked like a classic Saints game. It did not matter who was open, they were getting the ball. The offense was efficient, productive, and creative. Joe Lombardi was clearly the right choice for the offensive coordinator. Teryl Austin, while still working out the kinks, looked to have his defense playing Ravens football. They were tough against the run, rushed the passer well, and were always in great position in the passing game. They seemed to be able to plug anyone in on defense and get solid effort.