O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: What kind of show did the Lions put on?

Posted Aug 22, 2014

Mike O’Hara answers all of the burning questions following the Lions-Jaguars preseason matchup including how the offense performed, what to think of the penalties and more.

Burning questions – the good and bad of the Lions’ offense and defense, a strategy question on Coach Jim Caldwell passing up a certain field goal and other issues in the Lions’ 13-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Game 3 of the preseason Friday night at Ford Field.

Q. Show time, no time: Game 3 is supposed to be the full dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season. What kind of show did the Lions and Jaguars put on?

A. Neither team would win an Emmy, a Tony or an Oscar for that performance, but the real question is how the performances are graded out by the coaching staffs. And in the Lions’ case, Caldwell surely will look at this game with a critical eye, especially because of penalties and a sluggish offense.

There was an expectation that the offense would put on a show with Calvin Johnson playing for the first time, but that was not the case.

The No. 1 offense generated 229 yards in the first half, and 86 of those came on one play – a sizzling touchdown run by Reggie Bush midway through the first quarter.

Otherwise, the offense misfired more than it clicked.

Q. Penalties: Once again, the Lions created a blizzard in penalty flags. Describe your reaction as succinctly as possible.
A. Deja gruesome, if that’s really an expression.

Q. Strategy: In the second quarter, the Lions passed up kicking a field goal and went for it on fourth and one at the Jaguars’ three. A run by Joique Bell was stopped, and the Lions gave up the ball on downs. Right call by Caldwell?

A. In a preseason game, it was absolutely the right call. In the regular season, it could be debated, depending on the circumstances and the score. But with the Lions holding a 7-3 lead and trying to finish off a long possession with a touchdown, going for it was the right call.

Q. Play selection: Was running the ball on fourth and one the right call?

A. The basic answer is that whatever works is right, and what doesn’t is wrong.

Again, in a preseason game running was the right call. In the regular season, it could have been different. The preseason is a time to try things, and pounding the ball in short yardage is one of those times. After getting a first down at the 12, the Lions ran four straight times.

Q. What might have been different in the regular season?

A. After two runs by Bell made it third and two at the four, the Lions did not try to throw the ball. In the regular season, when the sole object is to win games and not develop players, there probably would have been a pass in the end zone to Calvin Johnson or Joseph Fauria to use their height advantage.

Q. Offensive assessment: Matthew Stafford played the first half and one series of the second, and he had the starting line blocking for him. How did Stafford and the No. 1 offense perform?

Matthew StaffordQB Matthew Stafford (Photo: Gavin Smith)

A. There were some good moments and bad ones, but scoring one touchdown on a long run was less than expected.

Stafford had trouble connecting early, and he had a pass intercepted on the second possession. The Jaguars won that chess match. They had defensive end Andre Branch drop deep, and he got the pick 29 yards down the field, which is a place a quarterback doesn’t usually expect to see a defensive linemen.

It was a good defensive play call by the Jaguars, and a good play by Branch.

Q. Offensive highlights: What plays stood out, and how much impact did Calvin Johnson make?

A. Johnson had two catches for 27 yards, and he was out of the game before the first half ended. Two short throws by Stafford gave another hint of what the offense can do. On one he found Golden Tate cutting right to left for 18 yards, with most of the gain on Tate’s run after the catch.

Rookie tight end Eric Ebron showed his ability to run with the ball on a catch that gained 15 yards.

Q. Defense: Rate its performance. Who stood out, and did Nick Fairley do anything to help his status?

A. The starting defense didn’t give up a touchdown, and it deserves credit for that. The No. 1 priority is to keep the other team’s offense out of the end zone, and the defense accomplished that.

Devin Taylor has been starting at one end in place of Ziggy Ansah, and Taylor had a sack and a pass breakup on a play where he faked rushing and dropped back into coverage.

George Johnson is trying to win a roster spot and add depth at end. He had a sack and was quick off the ball. He looks like he could add something to defensive line’s rotation.

And Tahir Whitehead started at strong-side linebacker, where rookie Kyle Van Noy and Ashlee Palmer have been competing. Whitehead made a lot of plays early in the game. It’s his third season, and he might be finding his niche.

Palmer had a sack in the third quarter. Van Noy did not play, apparently because of an unspecified injury.

Q. Defensive breakdowns: What were the worst ones?

A. The one that stood out the most and brought back memories of last season didn’t give Jacksonville any points, but it came on Jacksonville’s possession after the Lions’ failed on the fourth and one.

With the ball at their own three, and rookie quarterback Blake Bortles in the game for the first time, the defense had a chance to put the clamps on by stuffing the Jaguars and forcing a punt.

That did not happen.

The defense gave up four first downs, and the Jaguars drove to the Lions’ 45 before they had to punt.

Q. Ndamukong Suh: Also that possession, Suh got a penalty for a late hit on Bortles. Right call, and should that be a concern?

A. Yes to both. He hit Bortles flush in the chest after he delivered the ball. It was a clear penalty, and Suh can expect a fine. And yes, it’s a concern because he has a history of getting penalties for late hits and illegal hits.

It had no lasting impact on the game, but Suh should be rewriting his history, not adding to it.