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FOUR DOWNS: Defense takes a step back in loss to Colts


The Detroit Lions won back-to-back games the previous two weeks, in large part, because of the efforts of their defense. The Lions held both Jacksonville and Atlanta under 100 rushing yards, and ramped up the pressure on Gardner Minshew and Matt Ryan in the pass rush.

Detroit couldn't keep that momentum going on defense Sunday in a 41-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The 366 yards of offense for the Colts Sunday was above their season average, and the 119 rushing yards they racked up were the most the Lions have allowed since Week 4. The Colts converted 50 percent of their third downs (7-of-14) and were a perfect 3-for-3 scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

Detroit's defense had two sacks, but one was wiped out by a personal foul penalty on defensive tackle Danny Shelton after he sacked Colts quarterback Philip Rivers in the second quarter. Instead of the sack leading to a punt on fourth down, the personal foul penalty resulted in a first down. Indy scored three plays later. Detroit was later called for pass interference inside their 5-yard line on a 3rd and long that also led to a touchdown.

Detroit's defenders got to Rivers just four times in the game for hits, and they didn't create a turnover.

Detroit's offense not being able to sustain drives in the first half certainly didn't help the defense out, but overall, Sunday was a step back for the Lions' defense against an offense that didn't rank better than 15th in any major statistical category coming in.

"No excuse," Lions linebacker Reggie Ragland said. "Offense is going to have off days, but we have to go out there and play ball, simple as that."

View photos from Detroit Lions vs. Indianapolis Colts Week 8 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 in Detroit


If the Lions are going to get to where they ultimately want to go, which is playing meaningful games in December and making the playoffs in the NFC, they're going to have to find a way to beat some of the better teams in this league.

The Lions lost their fourth game of the season Sunday to an opponent currently with a winning record. Detroit's losses this season are to Chicago (5-2), Green Bay (5-2), New Orleans (4-2) and now Indianapolis (5-2). Detroit's only win this season against an opponent with a winning record came Week 3 in Arizona against the Cardinals, who entered Sunday 5-2. Jacksonville and Atlanta, Detroit's other two wins on the year, were a combined 2-12 entering Sunday.

To be a playoff team, Detroit's got to start finding a way to beat playoff-caliber teams.

"This league is hard to win," Ragland said after the game, when asked about their 1-4 record against teams with winning records this season. "I don't care if it's a one-win team or two-win team. These critics don't play in this league. They don't understand that getting a win in this league is hard. We just need to do our job. We have to do better (as a defense) as a whole."


There was a key moment in the first half where the Colts faced a 3rd and 4 at the Lions' 34-yard line with just over seven minutes left in the second quarter and the game tied 7-7.

Shelton got to Rivers for a sack at the Detroit 41-yard line that likely would have forced a Colts punt, but Shelton was called for a personal foul for taking Rivers to the ground after the whistle.

Here's the explanation from referee Clay Martin:

"I had blown the play dead for forward progress where I thought the quarterback was stopped," Martin told pool reporter Paula Pasche of

"And then I felt that number 71 (Shelton) unnecessarily continued on with him. And at about the time I'm processing that, the scrum starts. So, my attention went immediately to breaking up the chaos, if you will, and I threw my flag late. But the flag was for number 71, unnecessary roughness after my whistle for forward progress."

With newfound life after the penalty, the Colts scored on a Rivers 7-yard pass to tight end Jack Doyle three plays later to give them a 14-7 lead they'd never relinquish.


Matt Prater has been very consistent kicking the football ever since signing with the Lions during the 2014 season. Over that seven-year span, Prater's missed five field goals in a season just twice. He was 30-for-35 in 2017 and 26-for-31 last year.

But through seven games this season, Prater's missed five field goals after missing wide left on a 48-yard attempt to end the second half Sunday against the Colts. The miss makes Prater 12-of-17 kicking field goals this season.

It's important to note that three of those misses were from over 55 yards, but Prater will be the first to say he expects to make every kick he attempts. One more miss this year will make it the most misses he's had as a Lion in a single season.

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