Joe Dahl appreciates the good reviews he got for his play at left guard in the Detroit Lions’ opening-game tie with the Arizona Cardinals, but that’s far from being foremost in his mind.
Offensive linemen work as part of a unit, not individuals, and they come together in good times and bad. There was some of both in Week 1. Dahl’s focus on building on the good and improving on the bad is at the top of the Final Thoughts for today’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
There’s also a look at run game stats, tie games and their aftermath, and Random Thoughts – on T.J. Hockenson, a second thought on the Lions’ run game, home field advantage for the Lions and sticking with my pick.
Dahl said he hadn’t heard about the high grades he got from Pro Football Focus for his play against the Cardinals, but it wouldn’t have mattered much.
Dahl has been immersed in the game plan for the Chargers’ defensive scheme that features two potent edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III. The Cardinals got pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford with their outside rush.
“They do a lot of things differently,” Dahl said of the two defenses. “But at the same time, they still pose a threat in the passing game, and they’re really good and solid in the running game, too.”
The Cardinals had three sacks and 10 hits on Stafford. The Chargers’ rush was not that potent against the Colts, with two sacks and five hits.
Left tackle Taylor Decker had one of the worst games of his career. He was limited in practice all week and is questionable for today with a back injury.
Dahl was asked how teammates support each other. His answer was not surprising, without speaking specifically about any player.
“We know it’s going to happen,” he said. “There are awesome players all through this league. We know not everybody’s going to be on their game.
“It’s up to us to pick each other up – play good for the guys next to us.”
Quote to note: Lions running back Kerryon Johnson on coming back from last week’s tie: “All our lives in sports, either you’re a winner or you’re a loser. Now you’re a tie-er. It’s kind of messed up. At the end of the day, the Chargers don’t care if you tied, won or lost.”
Stat to watch – run game: The Lions were a little disappointing in the opener with 116 yards on the ground. That put them 12th in the league in a week when there were some truly miserable rushing performances – 21 yards by the Dolphins, 28 by the Redskins, 32 by the Steelers and 34 by the Bengals.
The Lions’ biggest disappointment was lack of big runs. Stafford’s 12-yard gain was the longest run, and the Lions were one of six teams that did not have a running back with a run of at least 10 yards.
The Chargers rushed for 125 yards and six yards per carry (the Lions averaged 3.6). Whoever runs it better today should have the advantage, especially late, because it means you’re in command and can pass or run as you choose.
Tie clips: There were two tie games last season – Steelers 21, Browns 21 in Week 1; Vikings 29, Packers 29 in Week 2. All four teams lost their next game. The Vikings and Steelers were at home. The Packers and Browns were on the road.
Rookie debuts: As good as rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson looked last week with six catches for 131 yards and a TD, I get waiting to anoint him as the next star. He has more to prove, as all players do. Examples: Billy Sims, 153 yards rushing, 64 receiving in his 1980 debut, and Barry Sanders, 71 yards on nine carries and a TD in 1989, proved to be stars. Charles Rogers, three catches and two TDs in 2003, failed because of injuries and personal demons.
It doesn’t hurt to wait – but you have to like what Hockenson’s shown so far.
Run game, think again: The fact that rushing for 116 yards last week was a little disappointing isn’t a bad thing. It shows that the standards are higher. The run game bottomed out in 2017 with 76.3 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry, both league lows. It improved to 103.8 yards per game and 4.1 per carry last year.
The Chargers gave up 203 yards to the Colts last week, second most in Week 1. The opportunity’s there to break out.
Time advantage: Think the 1 p.m. kickoff (Detroit time), and 10 a.m. back home for the Chargers, should be an advantage for the Lions? It might take the Chargers time to wind up their body clocks.
Think again. Early kickoffs haven’t meant anything to the Chargers.
In regular season 1 p.m. games the last three seasons, the Chargers were 2-0 in 2018, 2-2 in 2017 and 1-3 in 2016. Two of the road losses in those three seasons were in overtime, and one was to the Patriots – who were 20-4 at home against everybody.
Also, the Chargers won at Baltimore in the 2018 postseason and lost the next week to – who else -- the Patriots.
Bottom line: The only time that counts is game time.
Ford Field: Playing at home must be an advantage for the Lions this season. It wasn’t last year, with a 3-5 record, and a 4-4 record at home in 2017 is partly why the Lions missed the playoffs. It’s up to the Lions to make the stadium rock – starting today.
Sticking with my pick: The Chargers had a 24-9 lead over the Colts midway through the third quarter last week but couldn’t hold it. The Lions should be able to run the ball, and their defensive line should play better for a full 60 minutes this week. Not looking at an easy game for either team, but home field has to start meaning something for the Lions.
Pick: Lions 30, Chargers 27.