The Detroit Lions hit their bye week coming off a 31-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers that improved their record to 2-3 on the season and gets them right back into the thick of the NFC North race.
The bye week gives the players an opportunity to rest their bodies, heal up and recharge their batteries. For the coaching staff, it’s a chance to do some self-reflection from the past five weeks, and also get a head start on future opponents.
It’s an opportunity for us to take a look back over the first five games and look at the good, and the bad, that’s taken place. Let’s start today with the offense:
The good: Week 1 was bad. There’s really no other way to describe Matthew Stafford’s four-interception performance in the season opening loss to the Jets. But since then, Stafford has thrown nine touchdowns vs. just one interception and has recorded passer ratings of 101.7, 101.9, 131.5 and 101.9 in his last four contests. The Lions are 2-2 over that stretch with wins against New England and Green Bay. Detroit is also averaging 25.0 points per game, the most important offensive stat there is, which ranks in the top half of the league.
The bad: Quarterbacks in this league are measured on wins and losses. That’s just the reality of the NFL. Stafford’s out-dueled Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers for his two victories, but he and the offense didn’t do enough early in San Francisco or Dallas to help earn the victories in close losses on the road.
One area that has lagged a little bit early this season is Detroit’s deep passing game. Stafford has a passer rating of 54.4 on passes that travel at least 21 yards in the air. He’s completed 6-of-20 attempts (30 percent) with two interceptions. Stafford led the NFL in that category last year with a 119.7 rating on long throws completing on nearly 50 percent of them (29-of-61) with two interceptions.
View the best photos of the offense from the first five games of the season.
The good: There’s a lot to like about the revamped Lions rushing attack. First and foremost is the emergence of rookie second-round pick Kerryon Johnson, who is averaging 5.7 yards per rush on the year. He broke the Lions’ streak of 70 consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher with a 101-yard performance Week 3 in the win over New England.
After finishing last in the NFL last season in rushing at just 76.3 yards per game last season, the Lions head to their bye week averaging 97.2 yards per game, which ranks 21st.
Detroit’s short-yardage rushing attack behind LeGarrette Blount seems much improved as well. The Lions converted a few critical short-yardage situations in last week’s win over Green Bay, including two one-yard touchdown runs. That was an area they struggled with last season.
The bad: The Lions have totaled just 29 rushing yards in the red zone in five games, which are the fifth fewest in the league.
Also, Johnson is the only Lions back so far this season with an average yards per carry above 4.0: Blount (2.5) and Theo Riddick (3.8).
The good: The Lions might have the most versatile trio of receivers in the league in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay. All three players have proven they can go off on any given week, and that puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Each of them recorded at least 50 receiving yards in the team’s first four contests this season.
Tate (431) and Golladay (428) currently rank in the top 11 in receiving yards. The only other teammates to rank in the top 11 are Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp of the high-powered Los Angeles Rams.
The bad: We talked about the deep passing game above with Stafford. Some of that falls on the receivers as well to win more of those 50-50 balls or hang on to what would be tough catches.
The Lions have been credited with six drops through five games, which ranks 16th in the NFL. Not terrible, but not great, either. Tate has three, which he’ll be the first to say is three too many.
The good: The tight ends and their ability to block on the edge and in space has been a factor in the Lions' rushing totals improving. Levine Toilolo and Luke Willson are particularly good upgrades from what the Lions had at the position in recent years from a pure blocking standpoint. That’s certainly been a strength for both players so far.
The bad: Where blocking has shown to be a strength of this current group of tight ends, creating mismatches in the passing game and making big plays down the field is not. With the options the Lions have in the passing game at receiver and running back, this is a tight end group that has just 10 total catches and one touchdown between them in five games.
The good: The best ability is availability, and that’s been mostly the case for the Lions this season upfront, which is a far cry from a season ago when they had multiple different starting lineups due to injury. Starting right guard T.J. Lang has battled injuries (back and concussion), but he’s been the only player to miss time.
We talked about the improvements in the run game a lot. The offensive line obviously plays a big role in those statistics. Detroit has had just nine runs stuffed behind the line of scrimmage this year. That’s the fifth fewest in the league. They had 52 runs stuffed in 16 games last year.
Stafford has also been one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the NFL through five weeks, having been dropped just nine times. He was sacked 47 times total last season, which was second most in the league.
The bad: Penalties upfront have wiped away some big plays. Frank Ragnow and Rick Wagner had two last week that took big pass plays to Golladay and Jones off the board. There have been other instances of big gains being wiped away by penalties upfront.
Taylor Decker has four penalties (totaling 30 yards) in five games, which is the most among Lions offensive linemen.