The Detroit Lions are trying to finish the 2020 season in much better fashion than the 2019 season, and a big focus has been the 4th quarter.
Lately, the Lions just haven’t been able to get over the hump in close contests, but there’s a new buzzword going around in Allen Park ahead of the new season designed to help remedy that, and it comes straight from Matthew Stafford himself.
Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson spilled the beans on the team’s new mindset for the late stages this season, and it involves sticking it to the opposition.
“Dagger time!” Expect to hear that a lot this year. Hockenson said it’s a twist on finishing games, a phrase coins by Matthew Stafford
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) August 17, 2020
Obviously, “dagger time” refers to the team being able to be more aggressive, put away leads and make big plays in the late stages. Stafford himself has been good at applying the dagger himself in the late stages, but obviously wants to make sure the team understands the importance of doing it with him.
After the way 2019 finished, it makes sense that this is the goal for the Lions.
Lions Finished Poorly During 2019 Season
So why the emphasis on late game daggers? Earlier this offseason, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell met with the media and talked about where the team is trending in 2020. While he was casting an eye back to 2019, Bevell explained that the Lions were much, much closer to breaking through than most on the outside may have thought last season.
As he cited, the team led in 10 games in the 4th quarter last season. In those games, they were 3-7-1. Even a modest improvement in that record would have meant the Lions being a much better team in terms of the season they had.
Interesting stat from OC Darrell Bevell. Lions had the lead in 4th quarter in 10 games last year and were tied in another. Were 3-7-1 in those games.
“We weren’t able to finish those… & that tells me we can do better in that area, 4th quarter we have to pick it up & finish.”
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) June 22, 2020
Bevell’s takeaway? The Lions simply have to be able to focus and finish games this coming season, especially late in the final quarter. Typically, the Lions have been an excellent team late in games, earning the reputation as comeback kids during Matthew Stafford’s tenure as quarterback. The challenge now is to develop a mindset where they can better protect leads and put away games they should win.
Surely, if they are able to, the team will be much better this season and might even be one of the better comeback stories in the league. It might simply involve throwing some daggers.
Matthew Stafford’s MVP Hopes Could Rest on Wins
Recently, the cast of Good Morning Football took a look at projecting their dark horse MVP candidates. When it came to the answer for Peter Schrager, a familiar face was the easy answer and it was Stafford in the end.
Schrager admitted he figures the Lions will have a much better season this year, and that could push Stafford higher into the consciousness of the league come next year in terms of the MVP race.
"It's an annual tradition at this point, but here I am in early August hyping up Matt Stafford as a dark horse MVP candidate. He was fantastic before the injury last season and I think the @Lions will be considerably better than years past." — @PSchrags pic.twitter.com/JFLcx9xlRh
— GMFB (@gmfb) August 11, 2020
“In all honesty, Stafford last year started the season great. They tied a game to Arizona that they were winning big. They Lost a couple weird ones. Look at Stafford’s first 8 games before injury last year. In his first 8 games, he was first in the league in a lot of different statistical categories cruising along to a huge statistical category season. MVP talk? Probably not at that point because the team wasn’t winning. You add in some victories for the Lions and suddenly you’re talking about a guy who has taken a team who is in desperate needs of wins and desperate need of positive attention, threw them on his back and got there. There’s so many reasons Stafford can win the MVP. He just has to win some games. I think the Lions are much better this year than they were a year ago.”
Winning games has always been the problem for Stafford in Detroit, but an improved defense and more offensive weapons could get the team over the hump this season. It seems simple to say, but Stafford has always put up numbers. If he’s able to win big games, that could be the difference in him getting over the hump and contending for a huge award.
Safe to say dagger time takes on a whole new importance in 2020.