Sometimes statistics do matter.
The game is decided on the field, not on the stats sheet, but statistics can tell the story in graphic detail of what made a difference in a game.
That’s one of the things we learned in the Detroit Lions’ 42-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field Sunday.
Among the other things we learned: Looking ahead, there really is immediate hope to get the Lions on a winning track; looking back, there really should be caution in looking ahead; and a look back at history can show the kind of player who might solve what we’ve learned is one of the Lions’ biggest problems.
We start with stats, and how they count:
The final score means everything, and the Vikings’ 12-point win was proof that they are the better team. It was their fourth straight win over the Lions, dating back to Thanksgiving Day 2017.
There was nothing fluky about the victory. There was no weird fumble return for a touchdown, like there was in the Chiefs’ win in Game 4, or a series of disputed calls by the officials, as in last week’s loss to the Packers.
Bottom line: Minnesota deserved to win.
But stats count, as follows:
Running game: The Vikings ran the ball 37 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions ran it 20 times for 81 yards and no TDs.
The Vikings had 10 rushing first downs. The Lions had one.
The Vikings controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which led to this next category.
Passing game: Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins can pick apart a defense when he isn’t under pressure, and that was the case Sunday. The stats sheet shows that the Lions had no sacks and only three quarterback hits.
Cousins took advantage of the lack of pressure to complete 24 of 34 passes for 337 yards, four TDs and a passer rating of 141.4.
On his 25-yard pass to wide receiver Adam Thielen for the Vikings’ first TD, Cousins dropped back nine yards to the 34, took about a dozen steps to shuffle forward and to his left, then delivered a pass to Thielen in the back of the end zone with a defender in nuisance range on a belated rush but not a real threat to disrupt his rhythm.
Look back, player add: With the trade deadline one week away (Tuesday, Oct. 29), fans are looking at a player the Lions’ could possibly add to strengthen one of their weaknesses.
My pick for the most glaring weakness is a pass rusher. The Lions have 10 sacks in six games. Five were in the opening-game tie with Arizona. They’ve average one sack a game in the last five games. That, frankly, is a sad sack stat.
My pick for the type of player who would most benefit the Lions: Bubba Baker, a defensive end for the Lions from 1978-82. Baker played with attitude. He had 23, 16 and 18 sacks in his first three seasons, when sacks were not considered an official stat by the NFL, but opposing QBs knew they’d been knocked on their backs by Bubba.
The Lions desperately need a pass rusher.
Hope ahead: The three-game losing streak might make it look like any light at the end of the tunnel is a pinhole, but Sunday’s home game against the Giants gives the Lions a chance to get to .500.
The Giants are 2-5 with a three-game losing streak. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones won his first two starts, but he has struggled in the last three games, throwing three TD passes – one in each game – against five interceptions.
Proceed with caution: What we’ve learned – and painfully so – is to take nothing for granted from facing rookie quarterbacks.
They’ve hurt the Lions in the past – most recently in this year’s opener against the Cardinals and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.