FIRST DOWN: DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES
The Detroit Lions' defense didn't have many answers for the Tennessee Titans' offense Sunday in the Titans' 46-25 victory.
Tennessee scored touchdowns on their first three possessions to build an early lead. Tennessee punted just once in the game, and had a three-possession stretch of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to blow the game wide open. They scored seven times in nine possessions with six of those being touchdowns. Sunday marked the fourth time this season the Lions have given up at least 40 points on defense. The Lions only gave up 40 points three times in 2008 when they went 0-16.
"I'm not going to make any excuses one way or the other," Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell said after the game. "The guys that we have are the guys that we have. Those guys are out there giving us everything they got. The coaches are trying to put them in the best situations that they can to help them be successful and today we weren't able to do it."
Tennessee finished just five yards short of 200 rushing yards for the game, which would have been the third time this season the Lions have allowed 200 rushing yards to an opponent. Tennessee had 463 total yards of offense.
Detroit came into Sunday ranked 27th or worse in every major statistical category on defense. It's no secret that side of the football has been the biggest deficiency all year.
View photos from Detroit Lions vs. Tennessee Titans Week 15 game in Nashville on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.
SECOND DOWN: STAFFORD SHOWS UP
Quarterback Matthew Stafford took a couple reps in practice Friday, and said that was enough to know he could probably play Sunday, despite suffering a painful rib injury just a week prior against Green Bay.
Stafford continued to get better from there, and knew Friday night he was going to give it a go.
Stafford started, and gutted through the performance, completing 22-of-32 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and a 102.6 passer rating before leaving the game in the fourth quarter.
Stafford downplayed the pain he was in during the game when speaking to reporters after the game.
Bevell said he thought Stafford had given the team all he could when he decided to pull him from the game late. The Lions were down big at that point.
"You know, the toughness of that guys shows, the gritty performance he was able to have today," Bevell said after the game. "To even get himself right to go out there and play, I thought that was just gutty and gritty by him."
Stafford said it was important to him to play because he's the quarterback of the Lions and he owed it to his teammates and the organization.
THIRD DOWN: 3RD & MANAGEABLE
Bevell said the defense talked all week about being good on first and second down to not give Tennessee too many manageable third and short situations. He said that was going to be the key to stopping Tennessee, and unfortunately they weren't able to do it.
The Titans were efficient all day on first and second down, and that led to the Titans facing a 3rd and 5 or more just four times all game long. Tennessee was 9-11 converting on 3rd down.
That opens up the entire playbook and keeps a defense on its heels. Tennessee's early-down success is also a big reason why Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was so efficient all game, throwing for three touchdowns and running for two more.
FOURTH DOWN: OKWARA MAKING PLAYS
Down 21-7 late in the second quarter and having just lost the ball at the goal line on a D’Andre Swift fumble, the Lions needed a play on defense in a bad way.
Detroit hasn't gotten enough of those plays on defense this year, but when they have gotten one, it's usually been veteran defensive end Romeo Okwara stepping up to the challenge. That was the case Sunday. Okwara hurdled the attempted cut block of Dan Quessenberry and sacked Tannehill for a safety with three minutes and 35 seconds left in second quarter.
The sack was the eighth for Okwara this season, a new career high. It was Detroit's first safety in their last 75 games. The last one was also vs. Tennessee (2016).