The Detroit Lions’ offense has been good to a point in the first two games, but not good enough to convert possessions into points consistently
They’ve played eight quarters of football and a 10-minute overtime period. They’ve been shut out in four of those quarters – no touchdowns or field goals – and managed a field goal in the overtime to salvage a tie with Arizona in the opener.
The Lions will be looking for the elusive qualities of consistency and staying power in Sunday’s road game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has seen positive signs to build on in the first two games. One has been the ability of the offense to gain yards – 477 at Arizona, and 339 in last week’s win over the Chargers.
The other bright spot has been his patented ability to lead comebacks. He’s done that in both games – a game-winning TD drive last week against the Chargers, and a drive to a tying field goal in overtime in a sudden death, score or lose, situation against Arizona.
Going for stretches without points has been the downside. The Lions went 41:49 between first- and fourth-quarter TDs against the Chargers, and they were shut out in two quarters against Arizona.
“No game is going to ever be perfect,” Stafford said this week. “You’d love to score points on every single drive, and touchdowns if you can.
“We just have to do a better job of staying on the field a little bit on third down. We had some opportunities in last week’s game to stay on the field and didn’t. I think it would have ended up in some points.”
“We just have to do a little bit better job there, and then make sure when we get our opportunities for big plays, we have to hit them.”
That will be vital – along with generating a pass rush – against the Eagles.
Stats to note: It’s only two games, but the Lions are eighth in the league with 408 yards per game and 17th with 20 points per game.
Slayed again!: Cornerback Darius Slay’s game-clinching pick in last week’s win over the Chargers was a repeat of what he did in a 2016 win over the Eagles. He picked off a deep pass meant for Nelson Agholor with a little over a minute left.
Series history: Talk about a deadlock – the series is tied, 15-15, with 2 ties. The Lions have won the last two meetings – 45-14 in 2015, and 24-23 in 2016. Both games were at Ford Field.
2016 Game rewind: The Eagles rallied from a 21-7 deficit to take a 23-21 lead on a field goal with 6:40 left. Matt Prater’s 29-yard field goal with 1:28 left won it for the Lions.
Eagles’ focus – sacks: Defensive end Brandon Graham is feeling pressure for the Eagles’ defense to turn quarterback hits and pressure into sacks.
They had eight quarterback hits in the opening-game win over Washington and six in the Week 2 loss to the Falcons, but they’ve been limited to a single sack in each game.
Graham wants more – from players like himself and All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had 10.5 last year. Graham has been a solid player for the Eagles since they drafted him in the first round in 2010 out of Michigan and Crockett Tech High School in Detroit.
Starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and backup safety Andrew Sendejo have the Eagles’ sacks. Jernigan is expected to be out for an extended period with a foot injury sustained against Atlanta.
“We hold ourselves accountable,” Graham told reporters covering the Eagles this week.
“We haven’t been getting it done. We’re just going to pick it up. Hopefully, one of us gets it started. They just come, and they just don’t stop.
“We just have to continue to keep pressing and don’t worry about what we can’t control. We don’t have sacks. We like winning, too.”
Stat to note: The Lions’ rank eighth on offense in quarterback sacks allowed per pass play. The Eagles are 31st in sacks per pass play against their defense. The stats say it’s advantage Lions.
Prediction: It was Week 3 last year when the Lions started to play better, and this team should be better than last year with an expectation of getting some injured players back. There’s no secret formula to winning. Sustain the offense. Pick up the pass rush. No breakdowns on special teams. That’s not asking a lot.
Pick: Lions 27, Eagles 23.