If we haven’t reached the low point of the Dan Campbell era, imaging what that would potentially look like might be the scariest thing you see in October.
On Sunday, the Detroit Lions were thoroughly outplayed and completely outcoached by the New England Patriots. There’s no way to sugarcoat a loss like this one. There’s no way of chalking it up to the pits of the rebuild like many did last year after Detroit’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Halloween. Much like in that loss, the Lions were beaten in every phase of the game, and they headed into the bye looking for answers.
For this regime, the stakes are a little higher in year two, and desperation might be around any corner.
Last season, it was Campbell who took over play-calling duties from then offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn after the loss to Philadelphia. Who knows if a drastic decision like that needs to be made to see the defense turn around or if it’s just a matter of Detroit simply not having the requisite talent needed to keep up defensively, but something’s gotta give.
As we do every week for this Detroit Lions team, we have some data courtesy of Pro Football Focus that can help us better understand the football the Lions have played so far—and how they’ll continue to play from here on out. Let’s take a closer look at the Lions by the numbers after their loss to the New England Patriots in Week 5.
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Detroit generated just two pressures on Sunday. Two. The Lions, a team who forced 31 pressures in Week 2 versus the Washington Commanders and had no less than 10 pressures in a game had just two pressures against the Patriots. According to Pro Football Focus, New England allowed 32 pressures through their first four weeks of football. One of Detroit’s registered pressures came from second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson—and this is what it looked like:
When it comes to edge rushers and injuries, Detroit has had a string of bad luck going back to training camp. First it was the preseason hernia surgery for second-round pick Josh Paschal, then it was John Cominsky having surgery on his hand after Week 2, and now it’s Charles Harris and the groin injury he suffered in practice this week that prevented him from suiting up against New England.
Out there as the only Week 1 starter for the defensive ends, Hutchinson looked like the rookie he is.
On the flip side, this was easily the worst performance of the season by the offensive line. Detroit’s offensive front is their identity, and it’s so critical to the success of the Lions offense at large. On Sunday against the Patriots, the offensive line allowed a season-high 16 pressures—14 of which were allowed by Taylor Decker (5), Jonah Jackson (4), Penny Sewell (3), and Frank Ragnow (2).
Of those pressures, the Lions allowed just one sack, but it was a costly one. Jared Goff attempted to escape the pressure allowed by Sewell, but in this game, Goff’s maneuvering in the pocket looked more reminiscent of his play from last year—a step slow and often in the wrong direction—rather than the kind of sound pocket awareness and escapability he’s put on tape in 2022. It led to a scoop and score just before the half, a back-breaking error Goff has committed now in three games this season—all games in which Detroit ended up losing.
This is a stat I cooked up after looking at Goff’s performance, so it isn’t exactly a stat tracked by PFF, but using their pressure and depth of throw numbers, this is the percentage of Goff’s dropbacks that resulted in a completion: 48.7 percent. It’s his lowest mark of the year and a number that illustrates just how incapable the offense was of moving the ball through the air.
Goff is beyond reproach when it comes to a subsection of Lions fans, and that’s fine. I understand rooting for a player through thick and thin. However, this was the game that illustrates the problem with Goff when things go sideways: his limitations athletically only exacerbate the issue. He struggles to rise above when he’s put into tough situations. When Goff is faced with pressure, and this is something he’s looking to improve on from a year ago, he can make things worse by making a poor decision. Whether that’s trying to loop out of pressure by taking steps in the wrong direction, or trying to fit a throw into a window he shouldn’t be, Goff had his worst game of the year against New England—and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watched it on Sunday.