Detroit Lions: 10 thoughts on an absolutely wild loss to Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 15: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a shuffle pass during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 15, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Lions 52-38. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 15: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a shuffle pass during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 15, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Lions 52-38. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions were getting blown out in New Orleans. Despite the final score, the Lions have major problems needing to be fixed with the week off.

I have seen a lot of NFL football in 24 years of living, and I must say that might be the most insane game I have ever seen. There were FIVE non-offensive touchdowns and eight total turnovers.  Neither offense had 400 yards of offense yet had a combined 90 points.

The New Orleans Saints would score 21 straight points, then the Lions would answer back with 28 straight. However, the Detroit Lions had a poor game Sunday. The good news it the bye week is coming up. The bad news is there are numerous issues the Lions must correct in order to make a run at the playoffs.

Here are ten thoughts from the Lions’ week six game.

1. The Lions need Taylor Decker ASAP

Not having T.J. Lang was a massive problem, especially since the Lions considered him a late scratch. Injuries took their toll, as Rick Wagner and Greg Robinson were in and out all game. Cameron Jordan has his way on either side of the line and the running backs were piss poor in protection.

Taylor Decker will be eligible to come back after the bye week, but with such a major surgery it might take more time for him to return. While I want the Lions to get a playoff berth, the health of Decker is way more important. Greg Robinson was in a walking boot after Sunday’s game and the Lions are working with third-string players. The lack of protection around Stafford is why this team is at .500.

2. The Lions miss Haloti Ngata

The Saints had a great gameplan Sunday, attacking the Lions in multiple facets through their running game. I thought the Lions gave great effort, but the containment on the edge was inadequate. They were much better in the second half, as Teryl Austin went with more 4-3 alignments instead of nickel. In addition, A’Shawn Robinson was great in the second half and able to get penetration up the middle.

Yet, the first half run defense really hurt them. The defense was victimized on toss plays and the tackling remains a question mark. My hope is a more aggressive approach early in the game. I believe the cornerbacks can cover anyone. That means employing more man defense and sell out for the run.

3. The screen game is broken

I have never seen such stubbornness from an offensive coordinator. Every time the Lions call a screen, the defense diagnoses it immediately. The Lions have a tell of some sort because the screen game is a disaster. There were 14 deflections by the Saints defense and 12 at the line.

Not only that, the Saints would make plays makes behind the line of scrimmage every time a wide receiver caught a screen pass. Theo Riddick seems to have success, but any pass thrown out wide and behind the line of scrimmage was a failure.

4. Don’t blame Matthew Stafford…but something is off

I am willing to accept that injuries are playing a factor in Stafford’s struggles. With zero protection, he is doing the best he can. The wide receivers are having issues getting separation from press coverage.

On the other hand, Stafford is not as accurate as the last two years, especially with intermediate routes. He had multiple chances to make splash plays but he could not connect. The question is how much his legs are hurting him. The arm strength is there but the footwork is not. The bye week will benefit him.

5. The cornerbacks had a good game

A lot of the success by the Saints in the passing game was off misdirection and rub routes. Michael Thomas had three catches for 11 yards and only Ted Ginn was successful. Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson continue their impressive play and Quandre Diggs has solidified himself as the full-time nickel back. The more I watch Darius Slay, the more I think he is one of the top ten cover cornerbacks in football.

6. Jamal Agnew is a big-time weapon

After his second punt return touchdown, Agnew is about to get the “kick away from him at all costs” treatment. Yes, he should not be getting a taunting penalty and that will be corrected by the coaching staff. But Agnew is a big-time threat on special teams. Joe Marciano (the Lions special teams coach) continues to employ excellent schemes to spring Agnew.

7. Player of the Game: Marvin Jones

Jones’ touchdown catch was one of the best plays of the year. With Golden Tate out of the game, Jones was able to get chances and take advantage of the Saints playing soft zone. There was an effort to get Jones the ball, with a season-high 14 targets in week six. He seems to have a rhythm with Stafford after two solid weeks, and with Golden Tate’s injury, Jones must be a factor.

8. Jarrad Davis will get better

It was a tough game for Davis and that happens when you play a Sean Payton offense. Davis was lost on multiple plays and had a bad breakdown in the red zone on a play-action pass. His athleticism made up for some bad angles and initial reads where he was duped.

When you have a rookie linebacker, there will be mistakes. The Lions knew that from day one after the draft. Davis continues to get better and he will be an excellent linebacker in the NFL. Every week, he will get better and learn from his mistakes.

9. The play calling is too predictable

Jim Bob Cooter is simply too predictable. Too many times the defense knows what is coming based on the personnel. I think of the 3rd and 1 where they brought in Nick Bellore, telegraphing it was a running play. There is little creativity and flow to the offense. A lot of the success of the offense relies on Stafford making throws and the skill positions players in open space beating their man. Also, you will almost always lose with five turnovers.

As I said last week, the offense is stale. The formations are predictable and there is no game plan. Cooter seems to be calling plays with no purpose, especially on first down. I know the offensive line is terrible right now, so it limits what you can do. Yet, the screens are poorly designed and the running game has no purpose. The bye week will be a gut check for what Cooter wants to accomplish. You cannot overhaul the entire offense in two weeks. By the same token, I do not believe the offense can continue with the current style. I think more tempo could be the answer. The Lions seem to do better simplifying the offense and going quickly.

10. The NFC North is open but the Lions must improve

The injury to Aaron Rodgers is devasting to the Green Bay Packers and it sucks to see an injury to any player. With his broken collarbone, the NFC North becomes wide open. The Vikings are the leaders in the NFC North and I think are the favorites right now based on the last two weeks.

I said after the Falcons game the Lions are a good football team and playoff contenders. Three weeks later, I am not confident in that statement. The defense has struggles, but I trust them. The offense continues to put them in bad situations. The offense is my biggest concern. Stafford is getting pummelled every week and the offensive line shows no improvement. The running game is all on Abdullah breaking tackles and escaping defenders in the backfield.

Next: Lions' week 6 game balls

At this point, Jim Caldwell has a lot of decisions to make about the future of the offense. I feel like the screens and quick are lagging. It is time to rely more on more curls, slants, and posts. The run game will need to try traps and counters. The misdirection might spring some holes for the run game. With the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers coming up after the bye, the Lions now must win those games for a chance at the NFC North.