The Detroit Lions have been close in every single one of their games in 2020, but finally, they got over the hump thanks to the return of their biggest offensive weapon.
This week, as part of a 26-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals on the road, the Lions finally cut it loose in crunch time. Instead of getting conservative, Darrell Bevell threw the ball around on Detroit’s final drive, and the decision helped the team pull out a big win.
It would have been easy for Bevell to hang back, but he dialed up a deep pass to Marvin Hall. Though it didn’t stand, the play showed he was ready to make the winning calls in crunch time. Later, Marvin Jones delivered the knockout blow with a huge catch and run to set up the game winning field goal as time expired.
Why were these plays working most of the day short and long? The threat of Golladay had a lot to do with it. Detroit’s top wide receiver remains a matchup nightmare, and he had 57 yards on the day to go with 1 touchdown. Simply having Golladay on the field diverted a ton of attention his way and allowed Detroit’s other players to step up and make plays.
This is the kind of offense the Lions have hoped they could deliver this season, but without Golladay, it’s been tough. With him back in the fold and healthy, the team could be set to do their best work in the days and weeks ahead.
What else was learned this afternoon during the first successful hunt of 2020? Here’s a look.
Don’t Give Up on Jeff Okudah
Okudah got picked on again by DeAndre Hopkins, but had more nice plays than tough plays as a whole on the afternoon. Okudah also picked off his first career pass. As a whole, it would have been a mistake to give up on Okudah early on in his career. Stick with the youngster, and accept the good with the bad. There’s going to be tough moments, but also moments that show where Okudah could go in his future. This was a good response in only the second week of Okudah’s very young NFL career.
Credit Lions Defense for Stepping Up Huge
Detroit’s defense has been much maligned for good reason early this year, but they delivered when they needed to the most in the 4th quarter on Sunday. First, they stalled the Cardinals deep in their own territory setting up the game tying field goal. Then, they didn’t allow Arizona to drive the ball on them late. Detroit’s defense hasn’t made winning plays much in the clutch this year, but with takeaways, some pressure on the quarterback and only 23 points allowed to an electrifying offense, they managed to flip the script.
Take Matt Patricia Off the Hot Seat for Now
The NFL is a fickle mistress. Patricia is a dropped pass away from being 2-1, but instead he is 1-2. That record might not seem great, but it’s much better than the winless alternative. If Patricia could find a way to get his team into the bye week at 2-2, it would be a huge accomplishment considering where the team started from this season. There’s a long way to go on the season, of course, but this victory should allow Patricia some breathing room early in a rough start to the season.
Lions’ MVP vs. Cardinals: Matthew Stafford, QB
Stafford made every throw he had to down the stretch and most of the game to the tune of 270 yards and 2 scores. Better than that, Stafford was efficient and moved the ball very well late in the game which allowed the Lions to move the ball in position for a game winning drive. Stafford gets the game ball for his masterful command of the offense late in the game.
Lions’ Lamb of the Game: Halapoulivaati Vaitai
It was Vaitai’s first game with the Lions and he didn’t make a great impression on his new team and fans. Not only did Vaitai struggle in protection, he had a near costly penalty late in the game which almost cost the Lions a shot at a big win. Vaitai had better improve considering his contract and what the Lions are depending on him to do this season.
Lions’ Stat to Note vs. Cardinals: 3
Detroit picked off 3 Kyler Murray passes on the afternoon to stall some Arizona drives. The Lions went from having no takeaways to having a bevy of them, and at the hands of one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL. It was a solid showing through the air this week for the Lions and their defense.
Lions’ Quote to Note
“Turnovers are critical every single week. I thought the guys did a great job making plays. -Matt Patricia. The coach was happy about the fact that his defense finally delivered some big plays and he handed all the credit to the players for what they were able to do.