FOUR DOWNS: Defensive struggles continue in loss to Cowboys

FIRST DOWN: DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES

The Detroit Lions started backup Jeff Driskel at quarterback against Dallas Sunday. They also started a running back – Bo Scarbrough – who’d never been active for an NFL game before. Detroit scored 27 points, which is a pretty nice offensive effort shorthanded, and in most cases, can be enough to win in the NFL.

But as we’ve seen too many times this year, Detroit’s defense let them down in a 35-27 loss to the Cowboys.

To be fair, Detroit’s defense did set them up for their first touchdown forcing and recovering a fumble on Dallas’ second play of the game. The offense turned that into a touchdown on a short field.

But overall, Dallas notched 509 yards of total offense. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 444 yards and three scores for a passer rating of 116.6. Those kinds of numbers have become common from opposing passers facing Detroit’s defense over the last five weeks.

Dallas receivers were wide open at times Sunday, and Detroit’s tackling left something to be desired.

After 10 weeks, can we expect the Lions' defense to improve?

“I think for us we’re always trying to improve every week,” head coach Matt Patricia said after the game. “I don’t think we just kind of sit back and say, ‘That’s it, we’re good.’ We’re not good. I think we try to get better.”

SECOND DOWN: SCARBROUGH'S DEBUT

Patricia thought Scarbrough brought some life to Detroit’s downhill running attack.

Driskel echoed that sentiment.

“Yeah, I kind of grabbed him after the game and just told him how proud I was of him,” Driskel said of Scarbrough. “He ran the ball super hard. He knew what he was doing. He hasn’t been here very long at all and he stepped right in there, and it was awesome to see him run that ball that hard. He kind of brought some life to our run game and it was awesome. He’s a good player and I’m happy he’s on our side.”

Scarbrough, who was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 6 and activated for the first time in his career Sunday vs. Dallas, rushed for 55 yards on 14 carries (3.9 average) with a 5-yard touchdown.

Scarbrough has bounced around to four different teams since being drafted in the seventh round by Dallas last season. He was in the end zone for his first career score on just his third carry.

Scarbrough’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he ran hard and broke tackles, and brought some toughness that’s been lacking with Detroit’s run game most of the year.

“It’s an opportunity, week-in and week-out,” Scarbrough said. “Everybody needs an opportunity. Playing under coach (Nick) Saban – this is what we’ve always done. Every week was a different guy up, so you just have to be ready when your number is called. If your number is called, you just have to take advantage of it and run with it.”

THIRD DOWN: DRISKEL'S ATHLETICISM

When it was official last week in Chicago that Driskel was going to start in place of quarterback Matthew Stafford, we knew the offense was going to change a bit. The offense would feature some of the strengths that Driskel possesses, which include using his legs and athleticism to gain yards and extend plays.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn’t have much time to do that last week, but it was known all of this week that Stafford probably wasn’t going to play Sunday against Dallas, and Bevell was able to put a plan together for Driskel running the show. It involved the use of RPOs (run pass options) and boots, and even some called runs.

In the end, Driskel was efficient, completing 15-of-26 passes for 209 yards and two scores for a passer rating of 109.3. He also rushed for 51 yards on eight carries, including a well-designed 2-yard touchdown run.

“That’s definitely something that I can do and something that generates big plays,” Driskel said of his scrambling ability. “It’s not something that I’m out there planning to do, it just kind of happens.

“There were times where big plays came out of it and there were times where maybe I could have stayed in the pocket. It’s just something that you have to go back and watch the tape and be critical of yourself.”

He was sacked three times by Dallas’ defense and hit six times total.

The athleticism is there with Driskel. Bevell will only become more and more comfortable with what he does well and doesn’t do well the more he’s running the offense and starting games for the Lions.

FOURTH DOWN: TWO-POINT TRY EXPLAINED

After trimming the Cowboys' lead to 35-27 with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. with 5:58 left in the game, Patricia went for two points instead of attempting an extra point to cut the lead to seven.

Patricia explained the reasoning behind that move after the game: “What you really do is fast-forward to the end of the game and say, ‘alright, are you going to be going for a two-point play here or not or what’s your decision making?’”

Patricia decided that in the position the Lions were in and how the game was going they were going to go for two points at the end of the game to try and win it. Patricia’s logic was he wanted to take a shot at two two-point plays, and hopefully get the first. If he doesn’t get the first, he can go to his second two-point play at the end of the game and go for the tie.

“It’s really something you start thinking about well in advance from how it all works out,” he said. “The two-point thing, though, once you commit to it, you have to stay with it.”

The other option would be to kick the extra point to get within seven there and make the decision on the two-point play at the end, if they’re able to score the second touchdown. Detroit never got a chance at the second touchdown as Dallas ran the clock out at the end.

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