It was a game of old faces in new places as the Detroit Lions went to Southern California to take on the Los Angeles Rams in search of their first win of the season. Sunday’s contest had all the makings of a blowout as Los Angeles entered as Super Bowl favorites, while the Lions entered in contention for the first-overall pick. Instead, Dan Campbell‘s crew was able to hang tough and keep it close until the end when two late interceptions cost them.
Here are five numbers that give us a closer look at Sunday’s loss.
The Lions’ offensive line played their hearts out, allowing only 11 pressures to the high-powered Rams pass rush. Heading into the matchup, Detroit knew they’d be without all-pro center Frank Ragnow and would have to figure out a way to man the interior offensive line against future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald. Instead of folding under pressure, the offensive line stepped up and gave Goff ample time to make his reads.
Evan Brown was the standout player of the unit, filling in admirably for Ragnow and not allowing a single pressure. While Penei Sewell struggled and allowed four pressures on 39 dropbacks, it’s good to see him steadily improve and play competent football against a formidable opponent.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they were able to muster less pressure than the Rams, getting only 10 pressures and one sack. With so many injuries in the secondary, the Lions needed the pass rush to force Stafford into making errors.
Charles Harris, Nick Williams, and Julian Okwara were all able to register some pressure on Stafford, with Okwara getting the only sack on the night. While they may have struggled against the pass, the Lions’ defensive line was able to get nine run stops and forced the Rams to become one-dimensional.
It is impressive that the defensive line was able to shut down the run. The Lions will be in a much better position if they can muster a more complete pass rush to accompany the defense’s effort.
Campbell was able to use the element of surprise masterfully against the Rams, executing not one but two successful fake punts. When a team is an underdog to the extent that the Lions were on Sunday, they need to catch their opponent off guard. Campbell used guerrilla tactics as early as right after the first drive when he pulled a fast one on Sean McVay and the Rams, executing an onside kick up 7-0.
The trickery didn’t stop there. Campbell opted to fake a punt on the ensuing drive while facing a 4th and 7 at midfield. Not to outdo himself, Campbell called yet another fake punt while down 17-16, and the Lions converted again.
With fake punts being less common now in the NFL, the fact that the Lions could pull off two of them in one game is incredible.
The Lions need to work on holding leads, though. They are .321 when holding a lead of 10 or more points since 2019. To put into context just how bad this is, no other team is below .500.
While the Lions were up 10 in the first quarter with plenty of time for the Rams to catch up, they need to better translate the momentum they have in these situations into results. When you are up 10 early in a game, your defense should feed off the energy that the onside kick and fake punts created.
If Campbell and Co. want to change the culture in this organization, one major area of focus has to be keeping their leads and converting them into wins at a much higher rate.
The Lions’ secondary had an abysmal day, with four members allowing a passer rating of over 100 when they were targeted. While the lack of pressure on Stafford didn’t help them, you can’t help but think that they could have done a better job at limiting the damage Cooper Kupp created.
Will Harris was the lone standout of the group, allowing only 10 yards on 42 coverage snaps, while Daryl Worley was horrific with his seven coverage snaps, giving up 64 yards, a score, and a 149.3 passer rating. Jerry Jacobs had a rough day, too, giving up 76 yards and a score on 41 coverage snaps where he allowed a passer rating of 138.9.