Detroit Lions: 10 thoughts from week 10 win over Browns

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 12: Golden Tate #15 of the Detroit Lions runs the ball after a catch for a first down during the game against Cleveland Browns at Ford Field on November 12, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 12: Golden Tate #15 of the Detroit Lions runs the ball after a catch for a first down during the game against Cleveland Browns at Ford Field on November 12, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions looked to have a very easy victory going into Sunday. However, the Cleveland Browns were scrappy and forced Detroit to earn it.

Normally when the Detroit Lions struggle, I roll my eyes and sigh. It’s a bad habit I get watching all my favorite sports teams, but I believe it is better than being loud and obnoxious.

Despite the Lions 14 point victory, I rolled my eyes and sighed more than I can ever remember. It’s a victory, and the offense was unstoppable at times, but man was there issues Sunday. Let’s break it down.

1. Getting Taylor Decker back changes the ceiling of the Lions

Decker did not have a perfect game, but seeing him back on the field was pleasant. Multiple times he was able to slow down Myles Garrett and I really like his ability run blocking. The Lions could actually run to the left and make get positive yardage.

With Decker, you get a premier pass blocker and an advantage in the run game. Left tackle is a disaster without Decker and having him back increases the potential of the offense. He will continue to need more reps, but today was a positive step.

2. The run defense is in trouble

Other than A’Shawn Robinson, nobody on the defensive line is holding their gaps or keeping their assignments. With Ezekiel Ansah out Sunday night, I thought the line might have a harder time holding the edge. But the Cleveland Browns were gashing the Lions up the middle with inside zone. The linebackers were continuously blocked on the second level, and DeShone Kizer was able to get out of the pocket with the lack of contain.

I would not call the Lions stingy in the run game, but they have been solid this year. This could be a one-game aberration, but there are personnel flaws that are becoming to be a concern. The lack of penetration and explosiveness is not an easy fix. Maybe more “A gap” pressure could help, but this could be a big issue going forward.

3. The red zone offense was much better

Only two red zone drives Sunday afternoon, but the play calling and execution was a lot better with two touchdowns. Seeing Ameer Abdullah score a touchdown from 8 yards out is very encouraging, and I like the patience Stafford is showing the last two games. With Kenny Golladay back, this gives the Lions another option to go with inside the 20.

4. Not spying DeShone Kizer was dumb

I was thoroughly confused as to why the Detroit Lions did not spy DeShone Kizer with a linebacker or safety. Kizer is not a polished passer, and furthermore, you are going to play more man with the weak receiving corps of the Cleveland Browns. Sending pressure was fine on third down, there were too many blown assignments. The linebackers need to stay in their gaps better and play with more discipline.

5. Kenny Golladay is a threat

The Lions’ wide receiving corps is one of the better groups on the team and are performing extremely well. Meanwhile, the Lions add a 6’4 wideout with 4.4 speed back after his hamstring injury. Golladay caught two first downs, including a 50-yard play. He beat his defender on a wheel route, showing great balance after the catch tip toeing the sideline. Golladay is not an every-down player at this stage of the year. Despite that, having him for 15 or 20 plays a game is a huge advantage for the Lions.

6. Good third down defense on Sunday

Part of this was Cody Kessler coming in for an injured Kizer and the Lions forcing a couple bad possessions by Cleveland without Kizer’s running ability. However, the Lions are improving their third-down defense. I am seeing more blitzes by Teryl Austin, leading to more pressure and incompletions. Anthony Zettel is also getting major pressure from his end spot on third down and forcing quarterbacks to bail the pocket early. If the Lions could do a better job on fourth down, this game would have been a little bit easier. All things considered, good job the Lions and Teryl Austin to hold the Browns to 5-15 on third down.

7. Player of the game: Golden Tate

What can you say about this man? Former Lions GM Martin Mayhew gets a lot of grief, but this is one of the better free agent signings in Lions history. Tate continues to be a factor every game and he sealed the deal on Sunday with his screen pass for a touchdown. Jim Caldwell and his staff do a great job coming up with ways to get Tate the ball, and Stafford has unique chemistry with him. It could be another Pro Bowl section for Golden Tate this year.

8. The running game has some life

With a franchise quarterback like Matthew Stafford, the running game will always take a back seat. Having said that, the lack of running game success is a big thorn in the Lions foot. This game, there was a different game plan. The Lions used more quick handoffs and less off-tackle plays, leading to some success. Taylor Decker at left tackle is a big plus and provides chances to run on the left side with success.

The Lions are a strict zone blocking team, so there will never be wholesale changes. But a little different philosophy in the scheme can help. The Lions are throwing more on first down and getting more favorable running situations. After the first drive, there were zero negative running plays and the line was opening up holes. Detroit needs to throw on first down, then set up the run. Always go to your strength early and set the tone.

9. Will Jim Caldwell open up the #2 CB spot?

To say Nevin Lawson is struggling would be an understatement. Lawson was burned on the first drive by the Browns, then had an awful play. He misplayed his assignment and whiffed on a tackle to give up a touchdown. I like the hustle to force a fumble and get a touchdown from it. Lawson is a tough player and through the first four weeks was playing very well.

Lawson is going through a rough patch right now, having bad games the last three weeks. D.J. Hayden came in and made a couple plays, but that spot is far from secure. Hayden has the more impressive resume as a high draft pick, but Lawson has been the better NFL player. I think Lawson is still the guy, but he has a shorter leash.

10. The next two weeks determine the season

The Lions are 5-4 and seem to have found their groove after a three-game losing streak. Beating the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers and the Cleveland Browns is not impressive, but they are victories. The next two weeks are against divisional opponents, with the Vikings on Thanksgiving. The Bears are 3-6, but a scrappy bunch that plays everyone tough. Going into Soldier Field is never an easy task and any victory is well earned. The Vikings are two games up on the Lions and are not slowing down. They lit up Washington in the nation’s capital on Sunday.

Next: Lions game balls for win over the Browns

This is the time to bear down and focus. With two victories, you grab two more divisional victories and get much closer to the Minnesota Vikings, even if they win next Sunday. The Lions need to shore up their run defense and start faster on offense. The Lions are healthier and getting Taylor Decker back will provide more support up front. Take care of Chicago on Sunday and Minnesota for Thanksgiving…you get much closer to a home playoff game.