Rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu made his first NFL start Monday night in Green Bay, and the third-round pick by the Lions this offseason was playing pretty well right up until a thigh injury suffered in the third quarter forced him to leave the game and not return.
The injury happened as Melifonwu was running with Packers wide receiver Davante Adams on a deep ball down the right sideline. Just as the ball got to Adams for a 50-yard completion, Melifonwu clutched at his left thigh and went down. Trainers looked at him on the field for a bit and finally Melifonwu walked gingerly off the field with some assistance. Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after the game the injury didn't look good, and Melifonwu could be out for a bit.
He recorded two tackles and defended a pass before leaving the game.
Converted safety Bobby Price replaced him at cornerback and played pretty well the rest of the way. The Lions will now have to rely on Price, rookie Jerry Jacobs and the recently signed Corey Ballentine to fill in opposite Amani Oruwariye until Melifonwu can work his way back.
BETTER AGAINST RUN
Detroit coaches and players talked all week leading up to Monday's 35-17 loss in Green Bay how they had to be better against the run defensively than they were a week ago, when they allowed San Francisco to rush for 131 yards, two touchdowns and a 4.7 yard average per rush.
It was a much better effort Monday against the Packers, who averaged just 3.1 yards per rush with a long of just nine yards in the contest.
"They didn't rush for over 100 yards (96)," Campbell said after the game. "I wouldn't say the rush crushed us. Do we want to be better? We do, because ultimately we need to be able to get teams in third and medium and long because that's where most teams are playing the odds."
It was more quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' passing attack that gashed Detroit's defense, especially in the second half, but Detroit was better against the run and that was a goal coming into the game.
The Lions were without veteran wide receiver Tyrell Williams due to a concussion, and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said this week he needed someone in that receiver room to step up. Early on that was second-year player Quintez Cephus.
"A guy that we're starting to trust more and more," quarterback Jared Goff said of Cephus after Monday's game. "Hopefully we can continue to build that rapport."
Cephus caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Goff to open the scoring in the first quarter for the Lions, a touchdown that was set up a couple plays earlier by a 46-yard reception by Cephus down to the Packers' 20-yard line. Cephus caught four balls on the night for 63 yards (15.8 average) and recorded a touchdown for the third game in a row.