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How do you feel after the Lions’ 2021 debut?
The first game of the 2021 season has come and gone, and there is a lot to process.
The Detroit Lions were a major unknown heading into this game. While they did not emerge with a win, we now know a bit more about what the Lions are and what they could be. The road to success will be rocky for Detroit, but for such a young team and coaching staff, every game is a learning experience.
The debut of Jared Goff as a Lion was mixed at best, but there were signs of optimism. For the first 20 minutes or so, the game was competitively close. A Goff pick-six to Dre Greenlaw shortly thereafter began the avalanche that Detroit could not overcome despite a late rally. It was in that rally where Goff showed flashes of his first overall self, but the hole was too deep.
Although the receivers were quiet until the fourth quarter, the rest of the offense was surprisingly effective. The offensive line in particular flourished despite missing Taylor Decker. Much was debated about moving Penei Sewell to left tackle, but even Nick Bosa credited some solid play from the rookie. Running lanes were abundant throughout the game, and Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift capitalized. Had the Lions established a lead, perhaps they could have leaned on their rushing attack more.
It goes without saying that T.J. Hockenson was a magnet for Jared Goff passes. The rapport between Goff and Hockenson that was seen in training camp continued in Week 1, totaling eight catches (a career-high) and a touchdown on 10 targets. It is still early, but Hockenson is on an excellent pace to return to the Pro Bowl.
The defense was a far different tale. The day ended poorly with Jeff Okudah suffering a potential Achilles injury, and things weren’t much better before. Jimmy Garoppolo was unthreatened for a majority of the game, while the patented Kyle Shanahan rushing attack remained as dangerous as ever, even after losing lead back Raheem Mostert to injury. The pass rush only got home once, and that was on a Tracy Walker blitz. For as hyped as Aaron Glenn’s coaching was, the Lions still need the players to step up.
The Lions are 0-1, but there is still a long season to go. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Do you feel better, worse, or the same after the Lions’ loss to the 49ers?
My answer: I feel the same. There are positives and negatives, but it is overall a net zero result.
For positives, you have to be excited about the run game. The Lions have been missing a competent run game for years, and if the Lions keep this up, it could be potent. I was slightly concerned about Sewell’s preseason, but he was an anchor at left tackle. His performance begs the question if he will move back to right tackle when Decker returns, although Sewell is adamant he will.
For negatives, I was so let down by the defense, and I hate saying that. This defense is extremely likable, and the secondary in particular has a brotherhood under Aubrey Pleasant. I want to see them succeed so badly, and it makes watching them struggle hurt even more. Add in Okudah’s injury, and there is so much disappointment.
Going back to the positives, you can applaud the Lions for coming back, even if it came on the heels of a lucky onside kick conversion. After years under Matt Patricia, seeing this team fight is a welcome sight. Add in Dan Campbell’s aggressiveness on fourth down, and there is optimism that the Lions hired a good coach.
However, I just cannot feel confident in Jared Goff. Look at this stat from Jeremy regarding Goff’s passing chart:
30 of Goff’s 38 completions came within 7 yards of the LOS. https://t.co/XhY0RIRKGr
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) September 13, 2021
If I’m an opposing team, I’m not intimidated by Goff. He doesn’t pose a threat downfield. Goff had a great fourth quarter, but I don’t think Goff can be that type of quarterback consistently. The 49ers took their foot off the gas and let Detroit come back.
I’ll give credit to Goff for orchestrating that comeback and actually taking some shots downfield, but I don’t expect the Lions to get such an opportunity every week unless Goff changes his philosophy. He only looked comfortable throwing to Hockenson and his running backs. That is not a recipe for success.
Overall, it leaves me feeling the same about the Lions. The Lions showed some flashes on Sunday, but they aren’t ready to take the next step to become a good team.