Well, the Detroit Lions did not lose this past Sunday in Pittsburgh, and although they failed to win, it’s at least progress. I say that with a bit of a smirk on my face, but it’s kind of true Detroit and Pittsburgh played to a 16-16 tie.
It’s hard to comprehend exactly what we saw in Pittsburgh; it certainly wasn’t good, but it wasn’t a loss, and the Detroit Lions will avoid being the first-ever 0-17 team in NFL history. That’s something positive.
The once again shorthanded Detroit Lions got tremendous production from D’Andre Swift, who carried the football a whopping 33 times with Jamaal Williams inactive and nursing an injury. Swift totaled 130 rushing yards and made three receptions for five yards.
After the game, head coach Dan Campbell mentioned that he indeed, as rumored, would take over the offensive play-calling. If I’m being candid, the play-calling seemed like what I’d expect a Campbell game plan would look like; a vanilla, predictable run-first offense.
The Lions often added Matt Nelson to the line of scrimmage as a blocking tight end, along with T.J. Hockenson, and the Lions ran right behind it with a plethora of success in the first half.
Nelson had been starting at right tackle throughout the first half of the season as the Lions slid rookie Penei Sewell over to left tackle in Taylor Decker’s absence. Decker made his season debut in Pittsburgh, and Sewell moved over to the right side.
Detroit’s offensive line struggled mightily in pass protection all day but collectively dominated early on, mauling the Steelers defensive line in run blocking situations.
In addition to Swift’s nice day, the Detroit Lions unexpectedly got production from Jermar Jefferson, who carried the ball three times for 41 touchdowns and a score. Jefferson appeared to suffer a lower leg injury as he plowed his way into the end zone and was unable to return.
Detroit also got 56 yards on two carries and a rushing touchdown from Godwin Igwebuike.
The Detroit Lions offense continues to struggle with Jared Goff under center.
Campbell continued to call a run-oriented offense even in third and long situations using plenty of shotgun draw runs.
The run game worked exceptionally well in the first half, but Campbell failed to push the football down the field with Jared Goff, who was clearly laboring for most of the day. That’s fine and dandy, but it would have been nice to see the Lions work a few downfield play-action passes on second down rather than the old-fashioned run, run, and pass on third and long.
Goff suffered a strained oblique in the first quarter on a pass attempt to Kalif Raymond. If Goff wasn’t able to throw the football downfield due to his injury, Campbell should have turned to David Blough in the fourth quarter in hopes of winning the game.
The Lions got the football in the fourth quarter with over four minutes left, but the transmission was stuck in reverse. The drive started around the 15-yard line but ended with Jack Fox punting with his heels on the end line.
Lack of offensive adjustments cost the Detroit Lions in the second half.
Goff totaled just 114 passing yards through five quarters. That’s embarrassing, even considering the weather conditions. The teams played through a cold, steady rain plus a wintery mix.
In his post-game interview, Campbell mentioned that his conservative play-calling was in part due to Goff’s injury, along with the weather conditions.
Here’s the thing; Goff, when healthy, is a better option than Blough, but if Goff is at all limited, he’s not a better option. Shame on Campbell for not at least trying to put in Blough down the stretch.
The Steelers made adjustments in the second half and stymied the Lions’ power rushing attack by stacking the box and daring Goff to throw the ball.
The Detroit Lions had a chance to win the football game in overtime, but the newly elevated kicker Ryan Santoso missed the 48-yard attempt badly. I refuse to blame Santoso for the miss in those conditions, although I would have liked to see a better attempt, that line drive wobbler didn’t have a chance from the shoe.
Detroit will travel to Cleveland next Sunday to square off with the Browns, who were embarrassed in New England to the tune of 45-7.