Linebacker Jarrad Davis reflected back on his college days at Florida for an answer when somebody asked him about the resilience the Detroit Lions had shown Sunday in finally putting the lid on a 27-24 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Put the ball down,” Davis said, quoting a former coach – and explaining what it meant.
Resilience. Toughness. Moving on from play to play.
That was the theme of the game that kept the Lions unbeaten with a 2-0-1 record, and it’s the theme of this week’s Monday Countdown.
Davis had it in his first game after missing the first two with an ankle injury, and so did many others in this week’s Monday Countdown that also looks at running back Kerryon Johnson, wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., return specialist Jamal Agnew and cornerback Rashaan Melvin.
The words that fit all of them are tough and resilient.
There are also takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what’s trending for the Lions – up, down and holding – and the Bottom Line.
We start with words from Jarrad Davis:
1. Play on: That’s what the Lions did all game – and so did the Eagles, for that matter. Neither team packed it in.
The Lions played well in spurts, but they seemed to be hanging on most of the game – even though they never trailed after taking a 14-10 lead on Johnson’s one-yard vault into the end zone early in the second quarter. They pushed it to 27-17 on Jones' 12-yard TD catch on the first play of the fourth quarter and survived the Eagles’ rally.
Where did they get that resilience and resolve?
Davis, who contributed a forced fumble to go with six tackles, tied for second most on the team, said he’s never forgotten what his college coach told him.
“Put the ball down,” Davis said, quoting the coach.
In other words, play the next play.
“It doesn’t matter what happened before that,” Davis said. “Just play defense."
2. Jones, leaping, diving: He has laid out to make tough catches in the first three games. He had six catches for 101 yards and the touchdown, and the TD catch might have been his easiest catch of the day.
Jones got a step and a half on the defender, and quarterback Matthew Stafford lofted the ball to him in the end zone to stretch the Lions’ lead to 10 points (27-17).
“He threw me a great ball, held it up there, and I just ran under it,” Jones said.
A much tougher catch was one he made in the third quarter on third down for a 27-yard gain.
“That’s just what I do whenever that thing is up in the air,” Jones said. “I don’t hear anything. It’s just me and the ball.
“That’s what we have to do at the wide receiver position.”
3. Kerryon, leaping: It was hard work all day for Johnson in a running game that shows more signs of breaking down than breaking out.
Johnson had 20 carries for 36 yards. He scored the Lions’ first offensive TD on a one-yard leap into the end zone to give the Lions a 14-10 lead they never surrendered.
It took Johnson three carries to get into the end zone – a two-yard gain to the one on first down, two feet on second down, and then the leap into the end zone.
Wasn’t it risky to leap like that?
“It’s scary, but you know I’m trying to win,” he said. “If that’s what I have to do to win, then I’m all up for that. I put my body on the line for every play, anyways, so I might as well do it scoring a touchdown.
“The offensive coordinator is expecting you to get it in, no matter what. They can miss every block up front. It’s like half a yard. They expect you to get it in.”
A running back might be expected to score from the one, but nobody could have expected Johnson to have 126 yards rushing after three games and a 2.6-yard average per carry. His 11-yard run Sunday was his only run of the season longer than nine yards.
4. Melvin, close call: The Lions’ secondary was obviously weakened when cornerback Darius Slay went out with a hamstring injury midway through the third quarter.
Melvin was in coverage on the Eagles’ last offensive play – a pass from quarterback Carson Wentz into the end zone that wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside couldn’t handle.
What was Melvin thinking when the ball was in the air?
“I saw 10 other guys doing their job on the football field, and I didn’t want to be the 11th one not doing his job,” Melvin said.
5. Agnew, return to duty: He was benched last week after mishandling a punt, but he returned in grand style Sunday with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
It was a big play for the Lions after the Eagles had kicked a field goal on their first possession for a 3-0 lead.
“Obviously, I needed that, too,” Agnew said. “My brothers had my back. I had their backs, too.”
6. Takeaways offense:
- Comebacks: The Lions answered back twice after the Eagles scored TDs: Johnson’s TD leap and the catch by Jones. That kept the Eagles from stoking their momentum.
- Run game: Worse than indicated by the stats: 86 yards on 28 carries. The Lions got 44 of those yards on running back J.D. McKissic’s 44-yard run on a reverse. Take away that, and one yard credited to Stafford on three attempts, and the Lions had a net of 41 yards on 24 carries – 1.7 yards per carry.
- Pass catchers: It’s been a different go-to target in all three games – rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson in the opener, wide receiver Kenny Golladay in last week’s win over the Chargers, and Jones against the Eagles.
7. Takeaways defense:
- Turnovers: All those drills the Lions did in training camp, and continuing in practice, have paid off. They had two fumble recoveries against the Eagles.
- The defense was perfect in one category. The Eagles were stopped both times they went for it on fourth down.
8. Takeaways, special teams:
- Protection: It needs work, obviously. There was a blocked punt in the opener against Arizona, and a blocked field goal that nearly cost the Lions the game.
- Coverage: No problems. The Eagles had only one punt return, for two yards. The longest return on three kickoffs was 20 yards.
- Up: Agnew: Like he said, he needed that kickoff return.
- Down: Run game. No need to beat it to death. It’s been a disappointment.
- Holding: The receivers. They’ve taken turns having big games and making big catches. That includes Danny Amendola.
10. Bottom line: Remember when so many analysts said the Lions would do well to be 1-3 at the bye? By that reasoning, they’re ahead of schedule heading into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.